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Chicago Airports Seeing Pre-Pandemic Levels of Traffic, Data Shows

With the vaccine rollout speeding up, demand for travel is increasing

NBC Universal, Inc.

Chicago's O’Hare and Midway International Airports are reporting pre-pandemic levels of traffic, according to recent TSA screening numbers.

This week, American Airlines announced it expects to reactivate most of its aircraft by the second quarter of 2021.

On Monday afternoon, O’Hare was bustling with travelers; some cautious but ready to head out of town.

“I’m fully vaccinated (and) my family is fully vaccinated,” said passenger Rachel Schwartz of New York. “So, I definitely felt more comfortable for this trip to travel, with caution. I definitely didn’t do it in December.”

It’s why AAA of Illinois and Northern Indiana spokesperson Molly Hart believes more people may travel this year, with the vaccine rollout increasing every month.

“Our travel advisors are receiving a lot of phone calls from people who are looking to travel,” said Hart. “They’re looking at summer and beyond right now.”

At O’Hare, TSA screenings are up 494% compared to this time a year ago, when the pandemic was still in its early stages and stay-at-home orders were going into effect in most of the country. At Midway International Airport, screenings are up more than 1000%, according to the latest TSA data.

Airlines are already responding to the increased demand. The CFO of American Airlines recently stated in a memo that the company “presently expects to reactivate most of its aircraft in the second quarter to meet anticipated levels of demand.”

American has also expanded service to several destinations for the summer months.

Earlier this month, the TSA announced it would be hiring 6,000 airport screeners by this summer to address the expected demand.

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