Americans itching to travel as TSA notches 18 days of 1 million-plus passenger screenings

DALLAS — Evidence is mounting that Americans are eager to drive or fly somewhere after being mostly cooped up at home for a year.

American Airlines said Monday that bookings are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels as more people get vaccinated, but public health leaders repeated their concern that travel will spread the virus as new reported infections grow in the United States.

At U.S. airports, Sunday marked the 18th straight day of more than 1 million people streaming through checkpoints. That is easily the most prolonged travel rebound during the pandemic, although Sunday’s crowds were still 37% below the comparable Sunday in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

The strongest travel demand is for domestic and short-haul international trips. American said that as of Friday, its seven-day moving average of net bookings — new trips minus cancellations — was about 90% of bookings during the same period in 2019.

American said strong bookings should continue into the second quarter, which starts Thursday.

As a result, the airline expects to return most of its planes to service in the second quarter after grounding hundreds during the pandemic.

Other airlines, including Delta and Southwest, have reported that bookings began picking up around mid-February.

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