Travel Payments

US Air Travel Sinks 4 Pct Amid Rising Infections, Quarantines

The already sluggish recovery in air travel hit some turbulence over the past week.

The number of travelers passing through airport security checkpoints across the United States fell by more than 4 percent in the week ending July 19, according to stats compiled by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).

A total of 4,648,156 travelers passed through airport gates from Monday, July 13 through Sunday, July 19, as reported by CNBC. That was down from the 4,861,420 passengers the TSA clocked in the week ending Sunday, July 12.

The decline, the first weekly drop in air travel numbers in months, comes amid surging coronavirus cases across the country, with the Sunbelt seeing the biggest jump.

That, in turn, could be putting a damper on travel plans, with cities like New York that have already survived their own coronavirus surges earlier this spring requiring travels to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. Nearly a third of states now either require travelers to quarantine or undergo testing.

Quarantines are a major disincentive for air travel, with just 17 percent of prospective passengers indicating they would still travel if they were to be quarantined on arrival, according to a recent survey commissioned by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

A slightly higher percentage of travelers – 85 percent – said they feared being quarantined while traveling, compared to the 84 percent who cited a fear of catching the virus while on the move.

“Quarantine is a demand killer. Keeping borders closed prolongs the pain by causing economic hardship well beyond airlines,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, in a press release. “If governments want to re-start their tourism sectors, alternative risk-based measures are needed. Many are built into the ICAO Take-off guidelines, like health screening before departure, to discourage symptomatic people from traveling.”

Even so, the drop may not be quite as ominous as it seems. The previous week’s travel numbers included 755,555 passengers who flew on July 6, the end of a big holiday weekend.

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