Coronavirus

Airline Recovery Stalls Amid COVID-19 Uptick

airplane

Potential air travelers are grounding themselves to the extent that airlines are suffering bookings declines as severe as those seen when COVID-19 first surged in the United States in March, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday (July 7), citing an internal United Airlines Holdings Inc. presentation the news outlet obtained.

The most severe declines are in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — three states that have imposed new restrictions on travelers amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, the news outlet noted.

According to airport checkpoint data the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shares publicly, U.S. airport daily passenger volume in April 2020 averaged 5 percent of the 2019 level. The figure gradually increased to 33 percent on July 3, but has begun to decline again. On July 6, 755,555 travelers passed through U.S. TSA checkpoints — 27 percent of the 2,748,718 who passed through comparable checkpoints in 2019.

Airline executives have said the industry could be reeling for years from the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, airline employees face considerable uncertainty. The Journal reported that airlines have been warning workers that jobs will be at risk Oct. 1, when job protections included in a $25 billion federal aid package expire.

The recovery in travel is most likely to occur first among high-net-worth travelers, Colin Smyth, head of travel at payments platform Flywire, told PYMNTS last week. He predicted wealthy travelers won’t cancel trips to destinations such as Europe, but may alter their itineraries to spend less time than they had previously planned in major cities.

In the United States, about 125,000 people have died of COVID-19, according to a dataset maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

The same dataset also shows a surge in COVID-19 infections this month in some states, with the surge especially acute in Florida, South Carolina, Arizona, Delaware and California.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of  Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned on Monday (July 6) against complacency. “We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this … a series of circumstances associated with various states and cities trying to open up in the sense of getting back to some form of normality has led to a situation where we now have record-breaking cases,” USA Today quoted Fauci as saying in a Facebook Live interview.

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