It was still more than 35% below the number of passengers who passed through U.S. airports on the same day in 2019.

By Alison Fox
May 04, 2021
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More than 1.6 million people passed through U.S. airports on Sunday, according to the Transportation Security Administration, the most passengers the agency has seen in any single day since the pandemic affected travel all over the world.

The single-day record, which saw more than 1.62 million passengers get screened, comes as passenger numbers have surpassed 1 million every day for more than a month, according to the TSA's checkpoint travel numbers.

The boost in air passenger traffic also comes as more and more Americans have gotten vaccinated. So far, 56.3% of Americans 18 and older have gotten at least one shot and 40.6% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last month, the CDC said vaccinated Americans could travel domestically without the need to get tested or quarantine before or after their trip.

TSA
Credit: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Nonetheless, travel remains down compared to past years. While May 2 may have been a pandemic-era record, it was still more than 35% below the number of passengers who passed through U.S. airports on the same day in 2019.

This isn't the first time travel has seen a spike over the last year, including for Spring Break and the Presidents' Day holiday weekend. But the recent screening numbers — the TSA has seen more than 1 million passengers every day since March 11 — represent the most consistent rise in traveler traffic since the pandemic stymied air travel in March 2020.

To keep up with increased demand, many airlines have dropped pandemic-era policies like blocking the middle seat (Delta Air Lines, the last holdout, followed suit on May 1). And carriers have started to bring back food and beverage services on board in a nod to normalcy.

Some COVID-19-friendly protocols remain in place, however, and last week the TSA extended the federal mask mandate until September.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.