Inside the Data: Holiday Travel Trends

Over the past couple of years, travel has been a measurement for how much the pandemic has changed our lives. We hear a lot about how current travel compares to pre-COVID levels - but what are those levels? 

Today, we’re using Toric to look at how 2019 and 2020 compare to each other. We’ve gotten flight data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, and we’re highlighting a few of the trends we’ve seen in the United States over the past few years.

#1: Airline passengers decreased 65.2% from 2019 to 2020.

In 2019, more than 1 billion passengers boarded domestic or international flights in the U.S. In 2020, the number of passengers dropped right below 400 million. That’s a 65.2% decrease. 

yearly totals, airline passengers

#2: More people fly in the summer than at the holidays - but that might be changing.

December wasn’t the busiest month for airline travel in 2019 - it was 6th. July was actually the busiest travel month, and August was the second busiest. This wasn’t unique to 2019; we saw the same trend in 2018. 

However, if we look at 2020, the trend does change. If we exclude January, February, and March (the pre-pandemic travel months), December and October become the busiest months.

#3: Atlanta is still the busiest airport

If we look at all passengers who board a plane, Atlanta remains the busiest airport. It had more than 53.4 million passengers in 2019. In 2020, that number dropped to 20.6 million, but Atlanta was still nearly 2 million passengers ahead of Dallas/Fort Worth, the second busiest airport.

The most notable changes were in Los Angeles and Charlotte. In 2019, Los Angeles was the second-busiest airport with 42.8 million passengers. In 2020, it dropped three places to number five. However, Charlotte, which came in at number nine in 2019, rose three places to claim number six in 2020.   

enplaned passengers by airport, bar graph, 2019 vs 2020

#4: Southwest and American gained market share in 2020

In 2019, Southwest and Delta both flew 20.6% of passengers while American claimed third place with 19.7% of passengers. However, in 2020, Southwest and American held the top two spots with 21.7% and 21.1% of the market, respectively. Delta fell to third place with 17.7% of the market. 

Smaller budget airlines like SkyWest and Spirit also increased their market share. SkyWest went from 5.4% of the market to 6.5%. Spirit went from 4.3% to 5.9%. 

airline market share, pie chart, 2019 vs 2020

You can dive deeper into the data by exploring our Data App below.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 International Market
TSA checkpoint travel numbers

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