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Arizona pilot worried international travel may not reach pre-pandemic numbers again

Over the holidays, TSA screened the highest number of airline passengers since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This may be a sign that travel will be getting back to somewhat normal soon, which would be welcomed news for those flying the planes.

Al Gregory is a commercial international pilot and says, "I don’t think the airlines would have made it without the initial round of PPP from the government."

Nearly a year ago when the coronavirus pandemic hit, airlines were decimated as travel advisories and restrictions were put in place.

Some planes were brought to a standstill while others were running at very low capacities.

RELATED: TSA screens highest number of travelers over holidays since COVID-19 pandemic began

Gregory says in all of his 32 years in the business, he hasn't seen anything quite like it, saying, "It’s coming back domestically, but I fly mostly international and international hasn’t recovered and I don’t know if it will recover."

Out of necessity, he says many airlines cut routes and specific fleets, leaving many pilots out of work and forcing dozens of pilots to take early retirement.

"I’m just going to use generic terms. The burn of a major airline was probably $100 million a day and when you’re bringing in a tenth of the revenue, you’re bleeding," he said.

On the private and charter side of things, it looks much different. Flights in and out of Scottsdale Airport in 2020 exceeded those from the year before.

"We’ve seen people purchase aircraft or charter aircraft who decided they are nervous to get on a commercial flight. They don’t want to go through airports," said Ken Casey, director of sales at Pinnacle Aviation.

RELATED: Travelers return to Sky Harbor after spending holidays away amid calls to lessen travel

As far as major events being reduced or even canceled, a dip because of that is still not happening.

"We’re still seeing the big influx of people flying into Phoenix, if you will, but not the concentrated times for those specific events," Casey explained.

When companies want to start meeting again, Casey says business for charter and private will go up even more.

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