Are airlines ignoring social distancing?

A stark photo of a packed American Airlines flight reveals that airlines are ignoring social distancing, even though they say they're blocking seats and spacing out passengers (Photo: Business Insider)

The number of travelers passing through TSA checkpoints has increased steadily for five days, reaching its highest point since April 3.

The increase is small compared to normal passenger levels, but with airlines cutting capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic, a continued increase in passengers could mean more crowded flights.

Crowding creates a difficult situation for airlines, which need to assure their larger customer base that air travel is safe in order to recover from the worst financial crisis the industry has ever facedOptions include taking steps to encourage social distancing or requiring face masks, among other options.

The number of Americans boarding commercial flights has risen steadily over the past five days, leading to an increase in reports of crowded flights on which social-distancing measures were impossible.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, the number of daily travelers passing through security checkpoints at commercial airports has climbed from 92,859 on Tuesday, April 21, to 128,875 on Sunday, April 26. The Sunday number was the highest since April 3.

The TSA numbers offer a virtual real-time look at travel demand and trends in the US as the coronavirus continues to inflict damage on the airline industry. During the same period in 2019, an average of more than 2 million daily travelers regularly passed through security checkpoints.

Airlines around the world have significantly reduced their capacity over the past two months as the coronavirus pandemic has led to plummeting travel demand. Many have suspended routes, canceled flights or frequencies, and grounded large portions of their fleets.

Demand remains low, including for future travel — airlines have reported virtually zero incoming revenue, which has led to flights operating just 5% to 10% full. The major US airlines have reduced their capacity 80% to 90% for May and June.

Source: Business Insider