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May 17, 2024

Passenger volume at Worcester Regional soars as state's airports rebound from pandemic disruptions

Photo | Courtesy of Massport An American Airlines plane at Worcester Regional Airport

Air travel seems to be finally recovering after COVID-19 disrupted airports and the travel industry, as the state's port authority reports passenger activity this year has exceeded expectations.

Nearly 3.6 million passengers traveled through Logan Airport in April. That's 9 percent more than was forecasted. On a year-to-year basis, air travel is up 5 percent over what was expected, Ed Freni, director of aviation and interim CEO at the Massachusetts Port Authority, said during a Thursday morning board meeting.

Freni said he expects Logan to finish the fiscal year at the end of June with more than 41 million passengers flying in and out of the Boston airport, "as a result of economic growth exceeding expectations."

"As airline travel began to recover from the pandemic, leisure travel grew faster and stronger than business travel. Airlines are now reporting that the space of business travel recovery is picking up," he told Massport board members on Thursday.

Most airlines saw double digit revenue growth from corporate customers in their first quarter, he reported.

"Companies, particularly larger companies in finance, tech and professional services, are spending more on air travel, and the trend is expected to continue through 2024," Freni said.

More passengers have also been combining business and leisure travel, adding extra vacation time onto work trips.

This April, school vacation week in Massachusetts and New Hampshire coincided with the Boston Marathon to make the busiest two-week period of air travel in the Bay State since before the pandemic.

On Friday, April 12, Logan Airport set a new post-pandemic record of nearly 78,000 passengers outbound, and about 160,000 in total flying in and out of Boston. This was the highest daily number since August 2019.

The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 822,000 passengers during that 12-day period, which was 11 percent more than last year and 5 percent more than 2019.

The increased number of people flying isn't limited to Boston. In Worcester, passenger volumes have soared over the past year.

In April, more than 21,000 passengers used the Worcester Regional Airport -- up 17 percent from last year, and exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 23 percent compared to April 2019. Freni attributed this rise, at least partially, to a new service between Worcester and Fort Myers, Florida.

The Massport aviation director said Thursday that he expects the high passenger load to continue throughout the summer.

Nationwide, TSA is preparing for the largest volumes the agency has ever seen over the next several months.

The agency expects to screen more than 18 million passengers and crew between May 23 and May 29, which is about 6.4 percent higher than the same period last year.

"In close coordination with airport, airline and travel partners, we are more than ready to handle this summer's increased travel volumes," said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a statement. "We are also continuing to deploy state-of-the-art checkpoint technology that increases security effectiveness, efficiency and enhances the passenger experience and our retention and recruitment numbers are the highest they've ever been."

TSA warns those flying to give themselves plenty of time at airports and to pack smartly to avoid being pulled out of the security line.

Freni said the airline schedules have been more stable after a meltdown in summer of 2022 spiked flight cancellation rates. Cancellations have fallen to 1.4 percent from over 2 percent two years ago.

"However, [the Federal Aviation Administration] is still facing air traffic control shortages, which could lead to ground stops and delays and congested airspace in the northeast, particularly during the summer afternoon thunderstorms," he warned.

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