TSA airport screenings drop to lowest since May as travel and fares fall

Travelers wait in line for TSA security screening at Orlando International Airport.

Paul Hennessy | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Summer travel season is fading, driving down airfares and raising questions about demand in the coming weeks when business travel would normally pick up.

The Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 1.35 million people on Tuesday, the fewest since May 11. Travel demand usually falls in late summer as children return to school, but airline executives at Frontier, Southwest, American and Spirit last month warned that they would miss revenue or profit forecasts because of weaker bookings, a trend they blamed on rising cases of the delta variant of Covid-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday advised unvaccinated people against traveling during Labor Day weekend.

Domestic airfares fell in the week ended Aug. 27 from the previous week for most U.S. airlines, according to a Deutsche Bank report. Fares vary widely depending on airline service and network.

For fares purchased 21 days in advance, average one-way domestic fares were down as much as 30.6% on the week to $51 and $183 for Spirit and JetBlue, respectively.

American’s average domestic one-way fares fell nearly 23% to $158, Delta‘s fell more than 20% to $150 and United‘s dropped more than 25% to $199.

United said on Wednesday it expects to carry 2 million passengers between Sept. 2 and Sept. 7, which includes Labor Day weekend, about three times as many as last year but below the 2.6 million people it carried over the holiday weekend in 2019.

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