Bureau of Transportation Statistics;

U.S. airlines carried 89% fewer scheduled service passengers in May 2020 than in May 2019, according to data filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by 20 airlines that carry more than 90% of the passengers. Despite the large drop from May 2019, U.S. airlines carried more than twice as many passengers in May 2020 than in April 2020.

The 89% decline in the number of passengers would be the second largest year-to-year decrease following the 96% decline from April 2019 to April 2020.

The large airlines carried 7.9 million passengers in May 2020, up from 3.0 million passengers on all U.S. airlines in April, which was the lowest monthly total in BTS records dating back to 1974. The previous low was 14.6 million passengers in February 1975.

Preliminary May 2020 passenger numbers (20 carriers reporting):

  • Total: 7.9 million passengers, down 89% from May 2019 (74.8M)
  • Domestic: 7.8 million passengers, down 88% from May 2019 (65.3M)
  • International: 182 thousand passengers, down 98% from May 2019 (9.9M)

U.S. airline traffic reports are filed monthly with BTS. Final May data will be released on Aug. 13.  Complete international data by origin and destination, which is under a six-month confidentiality restriction, will be released on Nov. 13.

Systemwide Passengers

With the 89% drop in U.S. airlines passengers from May 2019 to May 2020 the number of passengers on U.S. airlines fell to the second lowest monthly level on record based on records since 1974. April 2020 was the lowest level. The decline beginning in March followed 29 consecutive months of increases from the same month of the previous year, dating back to October 2017.

Table 1: Systemwide Percent Change in US Airlines Scheduled Service Passengers from the Same Month of the Previous Year, 2016-2020Year-to-Year Percent Change

  2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020
January 3.0 2.9 4.0 5.6
February -0.2 5.7 3.0 6.7
March 3.4 4.6 5.1 -51.3
April 4.5 4.8 3.8 -96.1
May 3.0 4.9 5.2 -89.3*
June 3.4 5.0 3.7  
July 3.8 5.2 3.6  
August 5.0 5.0 3.4  
September -2.3 5.8 5.7  
October 4.6 3.9 4.1  
November 4.6 4.5 0.5  
December 3.5 3.6 8.8  
Annual 3.1 4.7 4.2  

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 Market* May 2020 data is preliminary 

Domestic Passengers

Domestic passengers on U.S. airlines declined 88% from May 2019 to May 2020, compared to a 96% decline from April 2019 to April 2020. The number of domestic passengers rose year-to-year for 29 consecutive months beginning in October 2017 before the 51% decline in March.

Table 2: Domestic Percent Change in US Airlines Scheduled Service Passengers from the Same Month of the Previous Year, 2016-2020Year-to-Year Percent Change

  2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020
January 3.1 3.2 3.9 6.2
February -0.1 5.9 3.0 7.4
March 3.8 4.2 5.4 -51.0
April 3.7 5.7 3.7 -95.7
May 2.7 5.3 5.2 -88.1*
June 3.1 5.3 3.6  
July 3.7 5.8 3.8  
August 5.0 5.5 3.4  
September -2.5 5.8 5.8  
October 4.7 3.8 4.2  
November 4.5 4.4 0.2  
December 3.7 3.7 9.5  
Annual 3.0 4.9 4.3  

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 Domestic Market* May 2020 data is preliminary

International Passengers

The number of U.S. airlines international passengers declined 98% from May 2019 to May 2020, after a 99% decrease from April 2019 to April 2020. In May 2020, the large airlines carried 182,000 passengers compared to 132,000 in April 2020. The declines beginning in March followed 22 consecutive months of increases from the same month of the previous year, dating back to May 2018.

Table 3: International Percent Change in US Airlines Scheduled Service Passengers from the Same Month of the Previous Year, 2016-2020Year-to-Year Percent Change

  2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020
January 2.1 1.0 4.5 1.9
February -1.2 4.6 3.4 0.7
March 0.4 7.2 3.1 -53.3
April 9.8 -1.0 4.3 -98.6
May 5.4 2.3 5.6 -98.1*
June 5.3 3.4 4.2  
July 4.6 1.6 2.2  
August 4.9 2.0 3.9  
September -1.1 5.9 4.6  
October 3.2 4.3 3.2  
November 5.4 4.7 2.2  
December 1.7 3.2 3.6  
Annual 3.5 3.1 3.8  

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, T-100 International Market* May 2020 data is preliminary

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