Memorial Day weekend boosts air travel despite near record low turnout
An almost-empty British Airways flight from Milan to London. There’s no knowing when people will be willing to pack into enclosed cabin spaces again. Image via Getty.

The near-record low turnout marked a grim start for the summer travel season.

Data from the Transportation Security Agency showed an uptick in air travel over the Memorial Day weekend, marking the first time the TSA processed more than 300,000 travelers in a single day since March 23.

While the bump in air travel may be of some relief for airlines, this year’s numbers were anything but average or sustainable.

“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend – the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” said AAA Travel Senior Vice President Paula Twidale. “With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.

On Thursday, the TSA screened 318,449 travelers nationwide. On Friday, the number of travelers increased to 348,673. Saturday and Sunday saw a collective 520,641 travelers. Then on Memorial Day, the return day for many travelers, the TSA totaled 340,669 travelers.

According to the TSA, agency officers screened over 1.5 million travelers from Thursday to Monday over the Memorial Day weekend. In 2019, however, the TSA reported roughly 12 million travelers at their checkpoints in the same window.

The record low travel should come as little surprise to many amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Even AAA, one of the nation’s leading auto clubs, chose not to forecast Memorial Day travel for the first time in 20 years, citing their anticipation of record low travel on America’s roads as their reason for sitting out.

While many industries have been impacted, if not devastated, by the global shutdown, perhaps no industry has been hit quite as hard as the travel industry.

Following 10 years of monthly positive reports, tourism industry leaders reported roughly $519 billion in losses in early May.

“This is nine-times worse than Sept. 11,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow during a May 7 webinar. “It’s a real challenge.”

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn