Rocketrip has been crunching TSA data to create projections on the pace of the rebound in air traffic. As vice president of marketing Liam Moroney explains, such projections can be useful for travel companies rebuilding operations and considering future staffing needs.

The internet is awash with predictions about when travel will return and what new forms it will take. There are many variables that can drastically change at any point, making planning almost impossible from a travel volume perspective. 

With furloughs in place across nearly all of our travel management company partners and hiring freezes across the business travel industry, understanding where traveler demand will be over the next few months provides critical insights to plan for a phased return to work.

Current data can help identify near-term trends and set expectations. One such data source is the Transportation Security Administration, which reports daily throughput numbers and comparisons to the same weekday equivalent in 2019. Because this represents a very real snapshot of air travel, trends in the data can provide strong signals of where traveler confidence lies and where it’s heading.

Liam Moroney, Rocketrip
Liam Moroney, vice president of marketing, Rocketrip

While still very anemic compared to 2019, the last four weeks of data have started to show real and consistent growth. This can tell us a lot about how the next few months could look.

Travel volume began to rapidly decrease in mid-March, reaching its ultimate low point on April 12th at just 3.7 percent of volume versus the prior year (90,510 travelers compared with 2,446,801 on the same weekday in 2019). 

From that point, the trajectory reversed direction. By May 25, volume reached 13.6 percent of the previous year with 340,769 travelers. This continued growth hints that we already saw the bottom and began the climb back, something echoed across the industry of late.

Much can happen that would stop this growth as states and businesses re-open. But for now, this strong trend can help us scenario-plan for the near term.

At Rocketrip, our data analytics team analyzed the recent trend and built out scenarios to help us with our own planning during the next few months. We took a conservative approach to the modeling so that we don’t let our optimism lead the data.

We did not use a linear projection, as the likelihood that the current growth continues in a consistent fashion is low. All of the scenarios we mapped assume that growth will slow down as time goes on and as the numbers get closer to 100 percent. What makes the best case and worst case boundaries is the speed at which this happens.

Rocketrip TSA

For the best case, we assume the initial growth continues and the majority of the gains happen early. In the worst case scenario we assume this growth slows quickly and the tapering occurs over a longer period of time. The middle scenarios are a balance of the two. 

Beyond the next two to three months, the curves become increasingly divergent, so we’re limiting our projections to July and August until new data inform the models.

Looking a month out, our projections put travel volume on July 1 at between 25 percent of last year on the low end, and 33 percent at the high end.

By August 1, we see the variance begin to widen and confidence levels in the data decrease. On the lower end, we would expect to see travel at 39 percent of last year, with a high-end potential of around 57 percent.

By the end of August, the data range widens significantly — between 54 percent and 79 percent. So much can happen between now and then, and the projections almost certainly will shift.

We will also be watching closely for information about the makeup of this travel. The breakdown and growth of international versus domestic and business versus leisure will continue to impact projections.

However, the data right now tells us there is an overall positive trend and there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. 

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