TSA Screens Record 3 Million Passengers Amid Lower Travel Costs

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The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently observed a notable surge this summer, screening over 3 million people at American airports on a single day – an unprecedented occurrence. This extraordinary influx of travelers, predicted to happen during the Independence Day weekend, took the trophy from the previous record of almost 2.99 million screened passengers on June 23. This year alone already accounts for an impressive eight out of the ten busiest days in TSA history.

Born out of the catastrophic September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the TSA replaced an array of private security companies previously hired by airlines. Falling under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, TSA agents this Sunday screened an average of 35 passengers per second.

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The surge comes even as Americans continue to navigate through the rocky waters of inflation. Despite these financial challenges, the cost of travel, including airfare and hotel prices, have notably decreased from the previous year. Recent government inflation data shows hotel room prices dipping by 1.2% in May compared to the same period last year. These costs have generally trended lower since the kickoff of the year.

Even though a majority of U.S. airlines reported losses in this year’s first quarter – a historically low season for travel – they have all been brimming with anticipation for a bustling summer filled with fully occupied planes.

This optimism was echoed in the spring by both American and Southwest airlines, as they projected strong profits for the second quarter. They were not alone in this sunny forecast, as Delta Air Lines and United Airlines also expressed positive predictions for the April through June period, traditionally the onset of peak travel season for airlines.

Delta’s second quarter results, due to be revealed on Thursday, have analysts projecting sales figures of $15.5 billion – nearly $1 billion up from the corresponding period last year. Come next week, United and American will unveil their quarterly results, with Wall Street expecting higher revenue for both carriers compared to a year ago.

However, this spike in air travel since the pandemic brought the industry to a standstill four years ago carries a downside for airlines – customer complaints. The Transportation Department received close to 97,000 grumblings in 2023, a leap from roughly 86,000 the year prior. This overwhelming number resulted in it taking until July to sift through the filings and compute the figures.

This record-breaking number of grievances surrounding airlines is the highest since 2020. Back then, airlines were sluggish in reimbursing customers after the coronavirus pandemic forced air travel to halt. According to the Transportation Department, this rise in complaints is partially due to more travelers being savvy about their rights and the process of lodging a complaint. However, a myriad of complaints reportedly go directly to the airlines from unaware travelers who either do not know how or see no point in lodging them with the government. Such figures, however, are withheld from the public by the airlines.