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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

March 2021 Airline Passenger Volume Shows Signs of Aviation Recovery

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The month of March typically has large increases in airline passengers and flights from the year’s low point in February. This year’s February-March increase of 14.8 million passengers represents a larger-than-normal jump of 60%, likely reflecting a gradual recovery from COVID-19 as well as the usual seasonal factors such as the end of winter and spring break. Despite the increases from previous months, March 2021 passenger and flight numbers remain well below those of the pre-pandemic March 2019.

March 2021 shows first year-over-year increase in passengers during pandemic, but numbers still lag behind pre-COVID-19 figures.

Domestic flights in the U.S. carried 4.9 million more passengers in March 2021 than in March 2020. That represents an increase of 14.3 percent and makes March 2021 the first month since the pandemic began to register a year-over-year passenger increase. 

But, March 2021 is also the first month during the pandemic with a year-over-year comparison to another pandemic month, so the number of passengers is not an increase over a “normal” month. As the chart below shows, the number of passengers on U.S. domestic flights this year (2021 is in green) remains well below pre-pandemic numbers.

February-March 2021 passenger growth notches largest increase on record.

Domestic flights on U.S. airlines carried 39.2 million passengers in March 2021, which is 14.8 million more than in February. Historically, March results in a significant increase from February in the number of passengers carried on U.S. flights, but this year’s February-March jump nudged out the previous record increase of 14.6 million set in 2019. As a percentage increase, the March 2021 60% jump was more than double any of its predecessors; the previous high was 28% set in 2010.