What Will Holiday Travel Look like for Airlines?

Published: 10-18-2021
Will aviation see a surge in the holiday season?

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

The holidays are coming up fast, and many people are eager to get out of the house. After a long stretch of self-isolation and lockdowns, Americans have proven they want to travel and experience life. But this coincides with two conflicting trends – a rise in vaccination rates and also a rise in new COVID cases with the new Delta variant.

So how will the holidays look for airlines? Will there be a rush of new passengers? Or will people choose to stay at home this season?

An Uptick of Travelers… and Warnings?

According to the Wall Street Journal, travel advisors have been receiving booking destination vacations for months scheduled for the holidays. The WSJ reported there has been “a flood of requests” in the recent weeks.

On the other hand, the Center for Disease Control has been extremely cautious. The CDC website advises people that “the safest way to celebrate is virtually, with people who live with you, or outside and at least 6 feet apart from others.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for travel.

While the CDC’s safety-first policies may appeal to some, their suggestion that people “host a video chat party with family and friends to share in the celebration” is unlikely to persuade those who crave in-person interaction with their loved ones.

A New Bill to Restrict Travel?

In response to COVID concerns, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the US Air Travel Public Safety Act. This bill would require all passengers on domestic airline flights to be (a) fully vaccinated, (b) have a recent negative COVID-19 test; or (c) have proof of full recovery from COVID-19.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services would then coordinate with the FAA to develop national vaccination standards and COVID procedures related to domestic air travel. The bill does not specify full vaccination status require a third booster shot, as is the case in Israel.

The result of this bill could be to restrict travelers. The immediate effect, however, would be to create more checkpoints and paperwork, which could cause delays and clogged foot traffic at the airports themselves.

A Combination of More Travelers and More Restrictions

One likely possibility for this upcoming holidays is an unpleasant combination of increased travelers and increased regulations. This would lead to more flight delays and other complications such as cancellations.

Airports and even the flights themselves have seen a rise in violence and unruly passengers, and this trend could also increase as Americans pack into airports and have to navigate further safety regulations before reaching their destination.

The COVID rules continue to be a point of debate, and vaccination rates have reduced the hospitalization rates for those who contract the virus. But it’s also true that travelers are unlikely to sit around and wait out another holiday season.

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