TSA screens highest number of passengers since COVID-19 pandemic low-point in April

Passenger volume at airports across the country was up this week heading into Labor Day weekend, officials said — though the number still remains well below levels reported in the pre-pandemic era.

On Sept. 3, nearly 878,000 people were counted at security checkpoints —  the highest number of travelers since hitting a pandemic low-point of 87,534 on April 14, according to Lisa Farbstein, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesperson.

Roughly 2,110,000 travelers were counted at checkpoints on that same date in 2019, TSA figures show.

A TSA officer checks a man's ID at a screening checkpoint at Orlando International Airport on May 21, 2020. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)The Transportation Security Administration has rolled out new guidelines for

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In March, Congress and President Donald Trump approved up to $50 billion for passenger airlines, including $25 billion in grants and loans to help cover labor costs through September. But U.S. air travel has recovered much more slowly than lawmakers hoped.

The country’s four biggest airlines — American, Delta, United and Southwest — lost more than $10 billion in the second quarter, which analysts believe will turn out to be the industry's lowest point. 

Airlines and their labor unions have been lobbying for more money to be included in a new round of pandemic relief to prevent layoffs in the industry until April 2021.

According to estimates by the trade association for the airline industry, global air travel was not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. But social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and sitting within 6 feet of others for an extended period of time may increase the risk of contracting COVID-19.

In anticipation of Labor Day air travel, the TSA reminded passengers to wear a mask and maintain physical-distance while going through the screening process.

“For travelers who have not flown since the beginning of the pandemic, the TSA checkpoint experience will be noticeably different as compared to Labor Day last year,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “Passengers also play an important role in helping us ensure they safely and efficiently get through security screening at our airports while wearing masks and respecting social distancing.”

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This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.