U.S. air travel to hit 1 million passengers per day by March 20th: Analyst

·2 min read

After a rough winter, things may turn around for the airline industry in a big way, buoyed most of all by vaccinations.

"I think we're going to see a jailbreak this summer as more people get vaccinated," Cowan aviation analyst Helane Becker told Yahoo Finance.

If April 2020 was the bottom, with about 87,000 people traveling per day, Becker said things will be wildly different this year. By around March 20, passenger volume will cross the 1 million per day mark, she said.

“Memorial Day weekend we think the recovery will start in earnest and go through the summer,” said Becker.

However, there’s one big catch that actually is bullish for the U.S.

“It’s going to be domestic travel — it’s not going to be international,” she said. Any international travel that does happen, she added, would be the Carribean and México.

"I don't think people are comfortable yet traveling eight hours on a plane to get to Italy or France or Spain,” she said.

Becker said getting everyone comfortable enough to travel might require a vaccine passport, a new kind of control akin to the post-9/11 adjustments to air travel.

"We got used to taking off our shoes and going through metal detectors. We got used to taking our coats off and toiletries out of our bags," she said. "We'll get used to this idea in a couple of years.”

Still, testing will remain in place for a while — something that may change the kind of trips people take. Tests might reduce the amount of long weekends people might take, but shouldn’t be a problem for longer week-length stays, Becker said.

All of this is likely to be just what the airlines need at the moment. Last year, they lost around $35 billion and have braced for another rough 2021.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.