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July 22, 2024

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US air traffic is accelerating going into the summer of 2024. Using a combination of TSA and FlightRadar24 data, we see the following.

TSA; FlightRadar24

The number of flights and passengers has grown consistently since January 2021. The upper chart lists flights and passengers, and the lower chart lists passengers/flight.

Throughout the recovery, there has been a stronger flight growth than traffic.  Airlines are pacing traffic growth with capacity.

However, the lower chart shows that the trend is moving strongly—from 54 passengers/flight in January 2021 to 95 passengers/flight in January 2024, a 76% growth. The current average for June is 106, which is 12% higher.  Summer traveling has yet to get going.

These are signs of a robust recovery for the travel industry.  We should all be excited about this. Well, maybe not too excited. The following chart lists airline employees.  There was a bounce after the pandemic, with more employees added.

DoT 1a

The industry’s total employment trend has risen sharply since 2021.  But when these numbers are broken down by airline, as above, one sees a different picture.  Services expectations and experiences may vary.

The strong traffic growth supports US airlines moving to larger aircaft. Using a different data source, the T2, we see the following.

DoT T2

Load factors for 1Q24 were at 81.6%.  If you flew in the winter and felt it was tight, you’re not wrong.  This summer should be even tighter.

In summary, travel industry employees should be getting back to their former normality.  For travelers, though, the new normal will be busy airports (long lines) and tight flights.

author avatar
Addison Schonland
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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