Hopeful signs are emerging as we examine air traffic and airline performance in the US for the month of January. While traffic levels remain lower than 2019 and 2020 levels, the drop seen due to the Omicron variant during December and January appears to be waning. The following chart shows a count of passengers screened by TSA through January 2022 by month since 2019.
The upward trend in traffic during the recovery, which stalled in August 2021 continued into January 2022. But traffic levels in late January appear to be stabilizing, rather than continuing to fall, a hopeful sign. The following chart shows daily traffic performance through 2 February 2022, which is shown in red. While traffic levels remain weak, they have been impacted by two major snowstorms, depressing travel. With a historical upturn beginning in February, combined with a dramatic downturn in Omicron infections, there are hopeful signs that traffic will recover at a faster rate in February.
Our AirInsight Airline Performance Index shows a continued declining trend, but some additional volatility due to the snowstorms. We are hopeful that this trend continues in the near future. The following table shows our performance index values over the last three weeks.
After an encouraging week in mid-January, in which 5 of the 7 days showed improvement, last week showed improvement in only 2 of 7 days. That reversed this week to 5 of 7 showing improvement, a hopeful sign.
Graphically, our index still shows a negative trend, as shown in the graph below, but higher performance on a couple of days indicates that the trend may be ready to change another hopeful sign.
The Bottom Line
While traffic in early 2022 remains below levels that industry experts hoped for, largely due to the Omicron surge, there are hopeful signs that this could change as we enter February, a month that normally is slightly better than January. A major uptick in February would provide an indication that a return to normal traffic levels could occur in 2022. We will be watching closely and updating weekly.