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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

U.S. Airlines March 2021 Passengers Rose 10% from March 2020 (Preliminary); First Increase since Pandemic Onset

Thursday, May 13, 2021

BTS 33-21
Contact: Dave Smallen
david.smallen@dot.gov
   

U.S. airlines carried almost 10% more scheduled service passengers in March 2021 than in March 2020 (preliminary), the first year-over-year increase since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, according to data filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by 22 airlines that carry more than 90% of the passengers.  

The reporting airlines carried 42.6 million passengers in March 2021 (preliminary), compared to 38.9 million passengers in March 2020. The systemwide increase was driven by a 14% increase in the number of domestic passengers (39.2M). Over the same period, the number of international passengers (3.4M) declined by 26%, the smallest year-over-year decline since February 2020.

March 2020 was the first month in which airline travel was reduced by COVID-19. March 2021 passenger numbers declined from pre-pandemic March 2019: total passengers by 47%, domestic passengers by 44% and international passengers by 65%.

Preliminary March 2021 passenger numbers (22 carriers reporting):

  • Total: 42.6 million passengers, up 10% from March 2020 (38.9M)
  • Domestic: 39.2 million passengers, up 14% from March 2020 (34.3M)
  • International: 3.4 million passengers, down 26% from March 2020 (4.6M)

U.S. airline traffic reports are filed monthly with BTS. Final March data will be released on June 10.  Complete international data by origin and destination, which is under a six-month confidentiality restriction, will be released on Sept 17.

Systemwide Passengers

  • March 2021 passengers:  42.6M
  • Change from March 2020:  10%
  • Percent of 2020 passengers:  110%
  • Change from April 2020 low:  +39.6M passengers

Table 1: Systemwide Percent Change in US Airlines Scheduled Service Passengers from the Same Month of the Previous Year, 2017-2021

  Year-to-Year Percent Change
  2017 - 2018 2018 - 2019 2019 - 2020 2020 - 2021
January 3 5.2 5.7 -61.5
February 5.8 4.2 6.7 -60.8
March 4.6 6.4 -51.3 9.5*
April 6 3.9 -96.1  
May 6.1 5.3 -89.6  
June 6.2 3.7 -80.3  
July 6.4 3.7 -72.4  
August 6.3 3.5 -69.8  
September 7.1 5.7 -65.2  
October 5 4.2 -61.8  
November 5.7 0.5 -60.7  
December 4.8 8.9 -61.5  
Jan-Mar 4.5 5.3 -15.7 -45.6
Annual 5.6 4.6 -60.1  

 Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 Market
*March 2021 data is preliminary

Domestic Passengers
•    March 2021 passengers:  39.2M
•    Change from March 2020:  14%
•    Percent of 2020 passengers:  114%
•    Change from April 2020 low:  +36.3M passengers
•    Domestic percent of total March 2021 passengers:  92%
•    Domestic percent of total March 2020 passengers:  88%

Table 2: Domestic Percent Change in US Airlines Scheduled Service Passengers from the Same Month of the Previous Year, 2017-2021

  Year-to-Year Percent Change
  2017 - 2018 2018 - 2019 2019 - 2020 2020 - 2021
January 3.3 5.3 6.2 -60.6
February 6 4.2 7.5 -59.1
March 4.2 6.7 -51 14.3*
April 7 3.8 -95.7  
May 6.6 5.3 -88.5  
June 6.6 3.6 -77.9  
July 7.2 3.9 -69.6  
August 6.9 3.5 -67.1  
September 7.2 5.9 -62.7  
October 5 4.3 -59.9  
November 5.8 0.3 -59.4  
December 5 9.6 -60.9  
Jan-Mar 4.4 5.5 -15.2 -43.5
Annual 5.9 4.6 -58.7  

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 Domestic Market
* March 2021 data is preliminary

International Passengers
•    March 2021 passengers:  3.4M
•    Change from March 2020:  -26%
•    Percent of 2020 passengers:  74%
•    Change from April 2020 low:  +3.3M passengers
•    International percent of total March 2021 passengers:  8%
•    International percent of total March 2020 passengers:  12%

Table 3: International Percent Change in US Airlines Scheduled Service Passengers from the Same Month of the Previous Year, 2017-2021

  Year-to-Year Percent Change
  2017 - 2018 2018 - 2019 2019 - 2020 2020 - 2021
January 1.3 4.8 2.1 -67.5
February 4.8 3.8 1 -73.4
March 7.4 3.8 -53.3 -25.7*
April -0.6 4.7 -98.6  
May 2.7 5.7 -98.1  
June 3.7 4.3 -96.4  
July 1.9 2.3 -90.4  
August 2.5 3.9 -87.5  
September 6.3 4.7 -83.7  
October 4.6 3.4 -77.3  
November 5 2.4 -70.3  
December 3.6 4 -66  
Jan-Mar 4.6 4.1 -18.8 -60.7
Annual 3.5 4 -70.4  

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 International Market
* March 2021 data is preliminary


Reporting Notes
Data are compiled from monthly reports filed with BTS by commercial U.S. air carriers detailing operations, passenger traffic and freight traffic. This release includes data received by BTS from U.S. airlines as of May 10.

See the BTS Airlines and Airports page for additional U.S. airlines numbers through February for U.S. airlines. International data by origin and destination is available through November.

None of the data are from samples. Measures of statistical significance do not apply to the complete air traffic data.