U.S. prepares for summer air travel spike; weighs foreign changes By Reuters

© Reuters. Passengers gather near Delta airline’s counter as they check-in their luggage at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By David Shepardson

ARLINGTON, Va. (Reuters) – U.S. agencies are preparing for increased domestic air travel this summer even as government agencies continue to debate whether to allow more foreign travelers to visit.

Acting TSA Administrator Darby LaJoye said on Tuesday that the agency plans to hire another 1,000 officers by July 4 after hiring 3,000 officers since Jan 1.

“We have already seen a sharp rise at the nation’s airports and will continue to experience steady increases throughout the summer,” LaJoye told a news conference at Reagan National Airport outside Washington.

On Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration screened 1.86 million passengers, the highest daily total since March 202 as more Americans get vaccinated.

Travel groups and airlines are pressing the Biden Administration to lift restrictions that bar nearly all non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in most of Europe, South Africa, India, China, Iran and Brazil.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at the press conference the government is “following the facts, the data, the science in making the decision as to when business, international travel actually can resume… This is something we are evaluating each and every day.”

The administration has been holding extensive meetings about relaxing some of those travel restrictions, officials have told Reuters, but made no decisions.

Industry officials think Biden could lift restriction on the United Kingdom and Ireland as soon as early June. COVID-19 cases in both countries have declined.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, told Reuters “the UK is the furthest along. Our belief is, if we can open UK, the rest follows.”

Airlines are also pressing for reopening international markets, which are among their most profitable flights. United Airlines, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:) and American Airlines (NASDAQ:) are preparing for a lifting of European travel restrictions this summer.

“We need to open up international markets,” Nick Calio, who heads industry trade group Airlines for America, said at the event.

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