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Aviation recovery exceeds Massport’s predictions

Logan Airport set a post-pandemic record for the number of passengers flying from Boston on Friday, April 12, the highest daily outbound passenger count since August 2019.

Air travel finally appears to be rebounding after COVID-19 disrupted airports and the travel industry, as the state’s Port Authority reports passenger activity has exceeded expectations this year.

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

Freni said he expects Logan to end the fiscal year at the end of June with more than 41 million passengers flying in and out of Boston Airport, “as a result of economic growth that exceeds expectations.”

“As air travel began to recover from the pandemic, leisure travel grew faster and stronger than business travel. Airlines are now reporting that the scope for the recovery of business travel is increasing,” he told Massport board members on Thursday.

Most airlines saw double-digit revenue growth among business customers in their first quarter, he reported.

“Companies, especially larger companies in the financial, technical and professional services sectors, are spending more on air travel, and this trend is expected to continue through 2024,” Freni said.

Also, more and more passengers are combining business and leisure trips, adding extra vacation time to business trips.

In April, the school holiday week in Massachusetts and New Hampshire coincided with the Boston Marathon, 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 outbound passengers, with a total of approximately 160,000 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 in those twelve days, which is 11 percent more than last year and 5 percent more than in 2019.

The increased number of people flying is not limited to Boston. Passenger numbers have soared in Worcester over the past year.

More than 21,000 passengers used the Worcester Regional Airport in April – a 17 percent increase over last year, and exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 23 percent compared to April 2019. Freni attributed this increase, at least in part , adding new service between Worcester and Fort Myers, Florida.

Massport’s aviation director said Thursday he expects high passenger loads to continue through the summer.

Nationally, TSA is preparing for the largest volumes the agency has ever seen in the coming months.

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

“Working closely with airports, airlines and travel partners, we are more than ready to handle this summer’s increased travel volumes,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “We also continue to deploy cutting-edge checkpoint technology that increases security effectiveness and efficiency and improves the passenger experience. Our retention and recruitment rates are the highest ever.”

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

Freni said airline schedules have become more stable after a crisis in the summer of 2022, which saw a sharp increase in flight cancellations. The number of cancellations has fallen from more than 2 percent two years ago to 1.4 percent.

“However, the Federal Aviation Administration continues to face air traffic control shortages, which could lead to ground stops and delays and congested airspace in the Northeast, especially during summer afternoon thunderstorms,” he warned.

— State House News Service