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April 29, 2021

Increased air travel is beginning to increase U.S. jet fuel consumption

four-week average U.S. kerosene-type jet fuel supplied
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Petroleum Status Report

In recent weeks, the number of air travel passengers has increased in the United States, which may indicate a corresponding near-term increase in jet fuel demand. Jet fuel demand has been at historic lows since April 2020. According to EIA’s Weekly Petroleum Status Report (WPSR), the four-week average consumption of jet fuel from April 9, 2021, through the most recent data (as of April 23, 2021) was more than 1.2 million barrels per day (b/d). This level of consumption was nearly 200,000 b/d higher than the four-week average that ended on March 26, 2021. To calculate jet fuel consumption, we use product supplied as a proxy for consumption.

U.S. jet fuel consumption decreased in 2020 because of global travel limitations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in significantly less air travel demand in 2020 compared with the shorter and smaller decrease following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. In March 2021, the number of passengers processed by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) averaged 1.2 million per day, the most in any month since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020. In April 2020, air travel substantially declined in the United States, and TSA passenger numbers fell to 100,000 passengers per day. By April 2021, TSA passenger numbers had increased to an average of 1.4 million per day (as of April 26).

U.S. average airline passenger numbers
Source: U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Note: April 2021 data incorporate data through April 26, 2021.

TSA tracks and publishes the number of passengers that move through TSA airport checkpoints daily. In February 2020, before responses to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in substantial reductions in air travel, TSA processed an average of 2.2 million air passengers per day. TSA passenger numbers increased gradually but remained below 900,000 passengers per day on a monthly average basis until March 2021.

Principal contributor: Kevin Hack