gathering storm systems were threatening to deliver gusty winds and rain that could interfere with flights, but for the most part, the weather is not expected to cause major disruptions.

“Overall, the news is pretty good in terms of the weather in general across the country cooperating with travel,” said Jon Porter, the chief meteorologist for AccuWeather. “We’re not dealing with any big storms across the country, and in many places the weather will be quite favorable for travel.”

Even so, AAA, the travel services organization, recommended that airline passengers arrive two hours ahead of departure for domestic flights and three hours ahead for international destinations during the Thanksgiving travel wave.

Some lawmakers warned that a Monday vaccination deadline for all federal employees could disrupt T.S.A. staffing at airports, resulting in long lines at security checkpoints, but the agency said those concerns were unfounded.

“The compliance rate is very high, and we do not anticipate any disruptions because of the vaccination requirements,” R. Carter Langston, a T.S.A. spokesman, said in a statement on Friday.

With many people able to do their jobs or classes remotely, some travelers left town early, front-running what are typically the busiest travel days before the holiday.

TripIt, a travel app that organizes itineraries, said 33 percent of holiday travelers booked Thanksgiving flights for last Friday and Saturday, according to its reservation data. (That number was slightly down from last year, when 35 percent of travelers left on the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving, and marginally higher than in 2019, when 30 percent of travelers did so, TripIt said.)

Among those taking advantage of the flexibility was Emilia Lam, 18, a student at New York University who traveled home to Houston on Saturday. She is doing her classes this week remotely, she said, and planned her early getaway to get ahead of the crush. “The flights are going to be way more crowded,” she said, as Thursday approaches.

Robert Chiarito and Maria Jimenez Moya contributed reporting.

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Airlines See a Surge in Domestic Flights, Beating Forecasts

The aviation recovery is gaining momentum.

A summer travel bonanza is exceeding expectations, helping airlines earn profits again and brightening the outlook for the rest of the year. It’s a welcome relief for a battered industry and a sign that the rebound that began this spring appears to be here to stay.

The economic upturn, aggressive cost-cutting and an enormous federal stimulus that paid many salaries have helped to improve the finances of the largest carriers, which took on vast amounts of debt and lost billions of dollars during the pandemic.

This month, consumer spending on airlines briefly exceeded 2019 levels on a weekly basis for the first time since the pandemic began, according to Facteus, a research firm that monitors millions of online payments. Ticket prices have rebounded, too: In June, fares were down only 1 percent from the same month in 2019, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index, which is similarly based on website visits and transactions.

And on Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.2 million travelers at its airport checkpoints, the most in one day since the start of the pandemic.

planned to hire hundreds of flight attendants and bring back thousands who volunteered for extended leaves during the pandemic.

increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour to retain and attract workers, while Delta is in the middle of hiring thousands of employees. United last month announced plans to buy 270 new planes in the coming years, the largest airplane order in its history and one that would create thousands of jobs nationwide.

Southwest on Thursday reported a profit of $348 million for the quarter that ended in June, its second profitable quarter since the pandemic began. American reported a $19 million profit over the same period, while Delta last week reported a $652 million profit, a pandemic first for each airline. United this week reported a loss, but projected a return to profitability in the third quarter as its business improved faster than forecast.

The financial turnaround has been buoyed by an infusion of $54 billion of federal aid to pay employee salaries over the past year and a half. Without those payments, none of the major airlines would have been able to report profits for the quarter that ended in June. The aid precludes the companies from paying dividends through September 2022.

Each airline offered a hopeful outlook for the current quarter. American projected that passenger capacity would be down only 15 to 20 percent from the third quarter of 2019, while United projected a 26 percent decline and Delta forecast a 28 to 30 percent drop. Southwest, which differs from the other three large carriers in that it operates few international flights, said it expected capacity to be comparable to the third quarter of 2019.

“We are just really excited about the momentum we’re seeing in the numbers,” Doug Parker, American’s chief executive, told analysts after the company delivered its earnings report.

The financial results and forecasts for the rest of the summer are the latest sign of strength in a comeback that has been building for months. But the airlines have vast amounts of debt to repay — American, the most indebted carrier, announced a plan on Thursday to pay down $15 billion by the end of 2025 — and the rebound hasn’t been free of setbacks.

recent poll from the Global Business Travel Association, an industry association. If other companies follow Apple’s lead in delaying a return to the office, though, the corporate travel recovery could be held back.

Delta said it expected domestic business trips to recover to about 60 percent of 2019 levels by September, up from 40 percent in June. Those figures roughly align with estimates from United.

“The demand is recovering even faster than we had hoped domestically,” Mr. Kirby of United said on Wednesday.

International travel has slowly started to recover, too, as more countries, particularly in Europe, open up to American travelers who can provide proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test. But airlines are lobbying the Biden administration to loosen restrictions in kind, which, they say, will allow the recovery to accelerate.

“I think the surge is coming, and just as we’ve seen it on the consumer side, we’re getting ready for it on the business side,” Mr. Bastian of Delta said last week. “Once you open businesses, offices, and you get international markets opened, I think it’s going to be a very good run over the next 12 to 24 months.”

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T.S.A. Extends Mask Mandate for Travel Into September

The Transportation Security Administration extended a mandate Friday that requires travelers to wear masks at airports, on airplanes and on commuter bus and rail systems, through Sept. 13. The mandate was set to expire on May 11.

“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic,” Darby LaJoye, a T.S.A. spokesperson, said in a statement.

The original order took effect in February and was part of the Biden administration’s goal to require masks for 100 days. Exceptions to the mandate are travelers under the age of 2 and those with certain disabilities that don’t allow them to wear a mask safely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed mask rules earlier this week, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear a mask outdoors while doing activities alone or in small gatherings. But the C.D.C. stopped short of not recommending masks outside altogether and still recommends wearing a mask indoors.

called for the directive to be extended to make it easier to deal with passengers who were not complying with mask rules set by airlines and airports.

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‘The worst is behind us’: Airlines see signs of continued recovery.

The worst appears to be over for airlines. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for the summer travel frenzy to begin.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines on Thursday were the last two major U.S. airlines to report financial results for the first three months of the year. American lost nearly $1.3 billion, while Southwest earned $116 million, a welcome profit after weathering its first annual loss in half a century last year.

“While the pandemic is not over, we believe the worst is behind us, in terms of the severity of the negative impact on travel demand,” Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chairman, said in a statement. “Vaccinations are on the rise, and Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States are down significantly from their peak in January 2021. As a result, we are experiencing steady weekly improvements in domestic leisure bookings, which began in mid-February 2021.”

That sentiment is shared across the industry.

“With the momentum underway from the first quarter, we see signs of continued recovery in demand,” Doug Parker, American’s chief executive, said in a statement on Thursday. His counterpart at United Airlines issued a similarly hopeful statement this week, despite posting a loss of $1.4 billion. Last week, Delta Air Lines reported a $1.2 billion loss.

The industry has been buoyed by federal support, receiving $54 billion in grants to pay workers over the past year and another $25 billion in loans. Mr. Kelly of Southwest credited that support for the airline’s slight profit, saying that the airline would have lost $1 billion in the first quarter without it.

Southwest was also buoyed by its limited exposure to corporate and international travel, which have been slow to rebound and are lucrative parts of the business for American, Delta and United. Leisure travel within the United States, which all of the airlines serve, is almost fully recovered.

Air travel started to recover meaningfully in early March, with Transportation Security Administration data showing a steady rise in the number of people screened at airport security checkpoints relative to the same period in 2019. That surge has subsided somewhat since earlier this month, with screenings down about 42 percent over the past week compared with 2019.

Southwest said demand for travel continues to improve with summer fast approaching and customers once again feeling comfortable making travel plans further out. The airline estimates that it has about 35 percent of expected bookings in place for June and 20 percent for July.

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Signs of Economic Hope Are Growing, Some With Superlatives

“I found it very encouraging that there are signs that people are waking up from hibernation, buying new clothes and going out to restaurants,” said Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist at S&P Global. “I think people are feeling optimistic that the United States will win the war on the virus. And they have good reason to be hopeful.”

Many economists said the strong retail sales were likely to continue through the spring, even after the new stimulus payments are used up.

The gradual return to normal activities as business restrictions ease has in turn prompted employers to recall workers — and this time, to hold on to them.

The Labor Department reported on Thursday that the number of first-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, to about 613,000, the lowest level since the start of the pandemic. That was a decline of 153,000, the largest week-over-week decrease since the summer.

In addition, 132,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 20,000 from the previous week.

“We’re gaining momentum here, which is just unquestionable,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton.

There are also broader signs of a comeback.

After a devastating year, airlines are growing increasingly hopeful as travelers return. Over the past month, more than one million people were screened each day at federal airport checkpoints, according to the Transportation Security Administration, a signal that a sustained travel recovery is underway.

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Fully Vaccinated Americans Can Travel With Low Risk, C.D.C. Says

Americans who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can safely travel at home and abroad, as long as they take basic precautions like wearing masks, federal health officials announced on Friday, a long-awaited change from the dire government warnings that have kept many millions home for the past year.

In announcing the change at a White House news conference, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stressed that they preferred that people avoid travel. But they said growing evidence of the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines — which have been given to more than 100 million Americans — suggested that inoculated people could do so “at low risk to themselves.”

The shift in the C.D.C.’s official stance comes at a moment of both hope and peril in the pandemic. The pace of vaccinations has been rapidly accelerating across the country, and the number of deaths has been declining.

Yet cases are increasing significantly in many states as new variants of the coronavirus spread through the country. Just last Monday, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, warned of a potential fourth wave if states and cities continued to loosen public health restrictions, telling reporters that she had feelings of “impending doom.”

suggested such cases might be rare, but until that question is resolved, many public health officials feel it is unwise to tell vaccinated Americans simply to do as they please. They say it is important for all vaccinated people to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and take other precautions.

Under the new C.D.C. guidance, fully vaccinated Americans who are traveling domestically do not need to be tested for the coronavirus or follow quarantine procedures at the destination or after returning home. When they travel abroad, they only need to get a coronavirus test or quarantine if the country they are going to requires it.

coronavirus test before boarding a flight back to the United States, and they should get tested again three to five days after their return.

The recommendation is predicated on the idea that vaccinated people may still become infected with the virus. The C.D.C. also cited a lack of vaccine coverage in other countries, and concern about the potential introduction and spread of new variants of the virus that are more prevalent overseas.

Most states have accelerated their timelines for opening vaccinations to all adults, as the pace of vaccinations across the country has been increasing. As of Friday, an average of nearly three million shots a day were being administered, according to data reported by the C.D.C.

The new advice adds to C.D.C. recommendations issued in early March saying that fully vaccinated people may gather in small groups in private settings without masks or social distancing, and may visit with unvaccinated individuals from a single household as long as they are at low risk for developing severe disease if infected with the virus.

Travel has already been increasing nationwide, as the weather warms and Americans grow fatigued with pandemic restrictions. Last Sunday was the busiest day at domestic airports since the pandemic began. According to the Transportation Security Administration, nearly 1.6 million people passed through the security checkpoints at American airports.

But the industry’s concerns are far from over. The pandemic has also shown businesses large and small that their employees can often be just as productive working remotely as in face-to-face meetings. As a result, the airline and hotel industries expect it will be years before lucrative corporate travel recovers to prepandemic levels, leaving a gaping hole in revenues.

And while leisure travel within the United States may be recovering steadily, airlines expect it will still take until 2023 or 2024 for passenger volumes to reach 2019 levels, according to Airlines for America, an industry group. The industry lost more than $35 billion last year and continues to lose tens of millions of dollars each day, the group said.

the country’s government said

The C.D.C. on Thursday also issued more detailed technical instructions for cruise lines, requiring them to take steps to develop vaccination strategies and make plans for routine testing of crew members and daily reporting of Covid-19 cases before they can run simulated trial runs of voyages with volunteers, before taking on real passengers. The C.D.C.’s directives acknowledge that taking cruises “will always pose some risk of Covid-19 transmission.”

Some destinations and cruise lines have already started requiring that travelers be fully vaccinated. The cruise line Royal Caribbean is requiring passengers and crew members 18 or older to be vaccinated in order to board its ships, as are Virgin Voyages, Crystal Cruises and others.

For the moment, airlines are not requiring vaccinations for travel. But the idea has been much talked about in the industry.

Niraj Chokshi contributed reporting.

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C.D.C.’s Travel OK for the Vaccinated Wins Industry Applause

The travel industry on Friday applauded new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said Americans who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 could travel at low risk to themselves as likely to help ailing businesses and encourage more Americans to board flights, cruises, buses and trains.

“The C.D.C.’s new travel guidance is a major step in the right direction that is supported by the science and will take the brakes off the industry that has been hardest hit by the fallout of Covid by far,” Roger Dow, the chief executive of U.S. Travel, an industry group, said in a statement. “As travel comes back, U.S. jobs come back.”

But while the news may be a boon to the industry, its concerns are far from over.

Most airlines, hotels and tourist destinations have suffered mounting losses for more than a year as Americans largely stayed home. Travel is beginning to recover, but many of these businesses won’t see meaningful profits for months, at least.

More generally, the pandemic has also shown businesses large and small that their employees can often be just as productive working remotely as in face-to-face meetings. As a result, the airline and hotel industries expect it will be years before lucrative corporate travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, leaving a gaping hole in revenues.

Airlines for America said in a statement.

Still, a rebound appears to be underway. On Thursday, the Transportation Security Administration reported more than 1.5 million travelers going through security checkpoints at airports, with the number of travelers increasing since early-to-mid March.

While that is a significant increase compared with 124,000 travelers a year ago, it is still 35 percent less than it was in 2019.

Many airlines have added flights to the beach and mountain destinations that have been popular throughout the pandemic. This week, Delta Air Lines also said it would start selling middle seats again, United Airlines said it would resume pilot hiring after freezing it last year and Frontier Airlines launched an initial public offering.

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United Airlines restarts pilot hiring as ticket sales rebound.

United Airlines said it will start hiring pilots again, the latest sign that the travel industry is recovering from the pandemic.

In a memo to pilots on Thursday, Bryan Quigley, an executive in charge of flight operations, said United would start by hiring the roughly 300 pilots who either had a conditional job offer last year or whose start dates had been canceled because of the pandemic.

“With vaccination rates increasing and travel demand trending upward, I’m excited to share that United will resume the pilot hiring process,” Mr. Quigley said.

Since September, nearly 1,000 United pilots have retired or taken voluntary leave, he said, adding that the number of pilots the airline needs will depend on how quickly demand recovers.

said at a virtual aviation summit on Wednesday. “Domestic leisure demand has almost entirely recovered. It tells you something about the pent-up desire for travel, the pent-up desire to remake those connections with people.”

On Wednesday, Delta Air Lines said it would start selling middle seats for the first time in a year, citing widespread vaccinations. On Thursday, Denver-based Frontier Airlines started trading on the Nasdaq, becoming the last of the nation’s 10 largest airlines to go public.

“The time is now,” Barry Biffle, Frontier’s president and chief executive, said in an interview. “The vaccine is unlocking the demand, and you’re seeing it everywhere. You’re seeing it in restaurants, you’re seeing it in hotels.”

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Delta Air Lines to Resume Booking Middle Seats in May

Delta Air Lines said Wednesday that it would sell middle seats on flights starting May 1, more than a year after it decided to leave them empty to promote distancing. Other airlines had blocked middle seats early in the pandemic, but Delta held out the longest by several months and is the last of the four big U.S. airlines to get rid of the policy.

The company’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said that a survey of those who flew Delta in 2019 found that nearly 65 percent expected to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by May 1, which gave the airline “the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft.”

Delta started blocking middle seat bookings in April 2020 and said that it continued the policy to give passengers peace of mind.

“During the past year, we transformed our service to ensure their health, safety, convenience and comfort during their travels,” Mr. Bastian said in a statement. “Now, with vaccinations becoming more widespread and confidence in travel rising, we’re ready to help customers reclaim their lives.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned of “impending doom” from a potential fourth wave of the pandemic if Americans move too quickly to disregard the advice of public health officials.

Delta also said on Wednesday that it would give customers more time to use expiring travel credits. All new tickets purchased in 2021 and credits set to expire this year will now expire at the end of 2022.

Starting April 14, the airline plans to bring back soft drinks, cocktails and snacks on flights within the United States and to nearby international destinations. In June, it plans to start offering hot food in premium classes on some coast-to-coast flights. Delta also announced changes that will make it easier for members of its loyalty program to earn points this year.

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U.S. Airports Saw More Travelers on Friday Than in a Year

U.S. airports had 1.357 million people pass through on Friday, the highest number on any day since March 2020, just after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

The new figures from the Transportation Security Administration will be welcome news for the aviation industry, which has particularly been decimated during the pandemic but was granted some relief in the stimulus bill that President Biden signed on Thursday.

Still, nonessential flights go against the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warned last week that even fully vaccinated people should avoid travel unless necessary.

“We know that after mass travel, after vacations, after holidays, we tend to see a surge in cases,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Monday on MSNBC. “And so, we really want to make sure — again with just 10 percent of people vaccinated — that we are limiting travel.”

Photos of spring break partyers without masks in Florida spread on social media this week, prompting concern from some local officials. “Unfortunately, we’re getting too many people looking to get loose,” Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach said. “Letting loose is precisely what we don’t want.”

The T.S.A. said it had prepared for a possible increase in spring break travel between late February and April, including through recruitment and vaccination efforts for its own officers. The agency’s employees had previously alleged that the more than 6,000 cases among their ranks were fueled by lax safety measures.

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