TSA Travel Numbers through 2022

Airports · 4 min read · Nov 22, 2022
TSA Travel Numbers

While the Coronavirus pandemic is slowly retreating from many countries, domestic and international travel is picking up pace. Airports around the world are experiencing a long awaited recovery of passenger numbers while juggling with the post-pandemic staff shortage.

Transportation security administration (TSA) has been documenting record peaks in TSA checkpoint travel numbers all across the US and they expect the winter season to be busier than that of 2019, too.

The amount of daily passengers is truly impressive if you study the statistic compiled by the TSA. Transportation Security Administration renews and updates the list every day of the year, but let’s pick out some of the most impressive pieces data and analyze the mind-boggling number of passengers the TSA screened over some holidays and weekends in 2022.

A number of passengers sitting an at airport cafe eating and watching aircraft.

The spirit of the 4th of July and airline disruptions

Over the 4th of July weekend 2022, TSA checkpoint travel numbers reached a record high since 2019, nearing about 9 million. Despite the disruptions in the airports, such as numerous flight cancellations, and an overall travel fare being higher ($360 per ticket on average) as compared to the same weekend in 2018 and 2019 ($350 on average), American travelers still flooded airports and set out on trips to celebrate the Independence day.

This sharp increase of Americans splurging on air travel is by some called “revenge travel”, a phenomenon to make up for the missed, cancelled or rebooked trips from 2020 and 2021. A surging number of passengers flocking airports also worsened the operational challenges in airports due to massive lay-offs throughout the pandemic.

The most delay and cancellation affected were a couple of airports across the U.S. one of them being Seattle Tacoma International Airport which experienced more than a dozen delays and at least three cancellations throughout the holiday week. Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport has also experienced severe delays due to staff shortages, meanwhile Philadelphia International Airport has cancelled just under 30 flights and delayed another 180 during the same week.

An airport security gate before TSA checkpoint.

Labor Day air travel

Another visible peak reported by the Transportation Security Administration happened over the Labor Day weekend in 2022. Reportedly, TSA screened around 11 million passengers which is 3-4% more than in 2019.

At the same time, Delta Airlines have also indicated that not only their regular passengers, but also people choosing business travel are returning to airports as bookings have improved dramatically after the Labor Day weekend.

A rise in business class sales are most likely due to companies slowly welcoming their employees and their customers after the summer break. However, work travel numbers are a rather seasonal statistic to track, so airports are not expecting a consistent sharp rise in business passengers.

While the Labor Day weekend hasn’t caused a record number of flight delays and cancellations, the pressure of amounting passengers at TSA checkpoints has definitely been felt by many airports and airlines alike.

As aviation companies reconnect with their travelers, they have stated that following the huge cutbacks of senior airline and airport managers, new inexperienced staff are struggling to maintain the same level of productivity and execute proper flight as well as airport operation planning.

TSA travel numbers: a large crowd of people on a fast walking track.

An unexpected peak in the number of passengers

So far, we have taken a look at two major holidays, during which increased air travel demand is expected every year. But spikes in the number of passengers are beginning to be seen on regular weekdays and weekends as well.

As an example, we can look at 16-17 of October, 2022. According to the TSA checkpoints data, nearly 2.5 million passengers have been screened across airports on Sunday the 17th and just over 2 million over the Saturday on the 16th.

While these numbers didn’t exactly surpass the pre pandemic levels in 2019 and 2020, it is still the highest number of travelers recorded on a casual weekend since then.

A traveler with with hand luggage, passport and boarding card.

Predictions?

There has been a visibly growing number of passengers returning to airports. Post pandemic traveling doesn’t show any signs of stopping, even despite the rising ticket and gas prices. People are still experiencing a strong sense of wanderlust after most of the flight operations were stopped during the pandemic. Due to that, Transport Security Administration is bracing for another heavy wave during the Christmas season in 2022.

Airports are preparing for air travel congestions, cancellations and delays as 47% of Americans have stated that they are planning to travel over the Christmas and New Years holiday. What’s more, 20% of the survey participants indicated that their preferred mode of transport over the holidays is, of course, air travel.

Not only the number of passengers is expected to peak dramatically over Christmas, but also airline ticket prices, which are expected to reach a 5-year high. However, while the price change might look dramatic, it is not all that surprising considering that fares have jumped up by 42% over 2022 and started rocketing even more after the Labor Day weekend in September.

But despite record-high ticket prices, numerous flight cancellations and delays as well as a still ongoing airport staff shortage, IATA predicts that air travel will return to 92% of 2019 levels.

Passengers walking down a terminal building to their gate.

Closing thoughts

Despite all the setbacks throughout all airports such as cancellations and delays, travelers have been flocking the terminals feeling nostalgic for traveling. 2022 has been a year that has recorded the highest number of passengers over several weekends (holiday and not!) since 2019, which provides a sigh of relief for airlines and airports that have suffered mammoth financial losses through the pandemic.

And finally, despite all the crowding delaying travel at the airports, you as a traveler shouldn’t forget the airport basics to make sure you really catch your flight and make it easier for others to get to theirs. Don’t forget to check-in early (not the same day as your flight), arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight and be ready for TSA security checkpoint screening.

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Eglė Bartaševičiūtė
A passionate traveler and an avid aviation enthusiast bringing you the most well-founded, accurate and up-to-date industry content.

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