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US airlines fly 1m passengers for first time since March

Daily milestone signals partial recovery for commercial aviation, but demand for flights is only 40pc of the same period last year

US airlines carried more than 1m passengers for the first time in seven months on Sunday in a new milestone for the Covid-ravaged aviation industry.

Airport security checkpoints processed 1,031,505 people - but that was only 40pc of the total on the same day last year, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration.

Several of the busiest days since mid-March have occurred in the past two weeks and passenger loads have been gradually increasing, but it hardly equals good news for the industry.

If Sunday’s passenger levels were maintained for an entire year, it would take the sector back to levels last seen in 1984, according to trade body Airlines for America.

The steep drop in flyers has resulted in billions of dollars of losses and tens of thousands of redundancies. A federal aid package that covered wage costs and prevented more job cuts expired on Oct 1 and attempts to extend it have faltered.

Sunday was the busiest day for air travel since March 16, when 1,258,772 people passed through domestic screening, according to TSA.

Passengers have been returning but in far fewer numbers than normal. Airline loads fell by more than 417m passengers since the virus hit compared to the same period in 2019 - a drop of about 75pc - according to TSA.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways does not expect to use its fleet of 10 Airbus A380s for at least the next two years, its chief executive Akbar al-Baker told an online conference on Monday.

He had said in June the jets would remain parked until at least the middle of next year.

The A380s would return to the skies when demand returned to 2019 levels, Mr al-Baker added.

He criticised rival carriers still operating the superjumbo as "foolish" given insufficient demand that would drive prices down. Emirates, the largest superjumbo operator, has resumed some services with the A380. 

Qatar plans to start retiring its A380s from 2024 when its oldest planes reach a decade of service.

Air France retired its A380s this year, while Etihad Airways is mulling whether its A380 fleet will ever fly again.

This article originally appeared on The Telegraph

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