Airline shares buck market selloff after TSA screenings topped 1 million, a 7-month high

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A traveler wearing a protective mask waits to board a United Airlines flight at San Francisco International Airport, Oct. 15, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Airline stocks jumped Monday after airport screenings over the weekend rose above 1 million for the first time since mid-March, a sign more travelers are getting comfortable flying again despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 1.03 million people on Sunday, the most since March 16. That is still 60% lower from a year ago, when 2.6 million people passed through TSA airport checkpoints, showing airlines’ pandemic-induced struggles are far from over.

But the figure still represents improvement. So far this month, daily airport screenings are down 65% compared with the first 18 days of October 2019. In April, screenings were down more than 90% from a year earlier.

Delta and United executives last week noted encouraging booking trends but warned investors that a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels, particularly for once-lucrative business travel, is likely years away.

Both carriers posted large losses for the third-quarter. American and Southwest are scheduled to report results before the market opens on Thursday.

United shares on Monday were up 5.3% in afternoon trading, while Delta was 1.3% higher. American and Southwest were each up about 2%. The S&P 500 was off 0.5%.

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