DALLAS, Texas — The baggage carousels at Dallas Love Field Friday were surrounded by spectating passengers, patiently waiting at their chance to grab their luggage and head out into North Texas for the weekend.
Compared to the beginning of the year when COVID-19 vaccinations were slowly being rolled out, and airports were practically ghost towns, it was a refreshing sight.
One thing is certain: COVID-19's grasp on America is not as strong as it once was. And new numbers from the Transportation Security Administration support that.
During Memorial Day weekend, 7.1 million passengers took to the skies, up 450% compared to Memorial Day last year.
The agency screened 1.98 million people on Sunday, which is a new pandemic air travel record.
And as travel demand starts to return to normal, the agency is struggling to keep up.
The Transportation Security Administration is projecting that 131 of the nation's airports will experience staffing shortages this month. Acting TSA Administrator Darby LaJoye is now asking office employees to volunteer at airports for up to 45 days.
The volunteers would handle non-screening functions such as onboarding for new hires and management of security lines.
The TSA is also offering $1,000 as a recruitment incentive.
Fewer officers mean slower checkpoints. Some videos on social media from Memorial Day weekend showed passengers waiting longer than normal to get screened.
And it's not just TSA struggling with staffing; airlines are too.
During the pandemic, many workers were offered early retirements or furloughed.
Now there's a need for more of them, specifically reservation agents.
Not to mention, ticket prices are going up.
According to the Consumer Price Index, airline ticket prices are up 7% for the month and 24% compared to the prior year.
Public health leaders have urged caution when traveling, as new variants of COVID-19 continue to be discovered in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control is now asking citizens to limit travel whenever possible after the U.S. hit 30 million COVID-19 cases.