Air travel in the New York City area took off around the February midwinter break, coming closest to 2019 levels since the pandemic began.
Passenger volumes were up to 98.3% of pre-pandemic levels for Feb. 18-24 compared to the same time three years ago at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s three largest airports.
Officials with the Transportation Security Administration counted more than 1.15 million travelers during that time period, compared to 1.17 million in the same timeframe in 2019.
LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport even served more travelers than pre-COVID, at 107.7% and 104.5% of 2019 levels respectively, while John F. Kennedy International Airport — the busiest of the three travel hubs – was still down at 89.3%.
The latest figures, which the Port Authority provided to amNewYork Metro, show that the Big Apple is slightly above national trends where the average passenger volume was still at 88.4% of pre-COVID figures during that time.
Director of State Operations Kathryn Garcia said last week that the returning aviation travel was promising for the city and state.
“It is great to see all of these things coming back — we have a long way to go — but I’m excited about what the future has,” Garcia said at a recent transportation panel hosted by New York University.
The bump in air travel was likely fueled by the Presidents Day weekend and the beginning of the February recess in New York City schools, according to Port Authority spokesperson Thomas Topousis.
Most recent full monthly figures from January 2022 show that air travel numbers dipped down due to the Omicron surge and winter storms.
There were 7.1 million passengers that month, down to 71% compared to January 2019, and down from 9.8 million people in December.
Prior to the worldwide health crisis of the coronavirus, the Port Authority logged a record 140 million annual travelers in 2019, but as with other modes of transportation, their numbers cratered and dropped by 95% during the early months of COVID-19 in 2020, before recovering to 54% on average across 2021.
The Port Authority’s seaports have experienced record-setting levels both in January and for all of last year, and the bi-state agency’s four bridges and two tunnels have been its second-best performing infrastructure at near pre-pandemic levels of car traffic for months.
On the low end, the Authority’s PATH mass transit trains have seen the slowest return of ridership at 33% of 2019 levels in January and 36% of pre-COVID trips for all of 2021.
That tracks similarly to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, whose seven bridges and two tunnels regularly register pre-pandemic rates of vehicle crossings while mass transit has lagged behind.
Transit has come back quicker at the MTA, however, with daily subway trips has routinely toping 3 million since the Omicron variant’s winter surge receded in recent weeks, including more than 3.2 million on Thursday, or 56.3% compared to 2019, according to the newest agency counts.