Airlines Showing Signs of Recovery

(Noted News) — After the damage done from coronavirus restrictions, few sectors are on a longer road to recovery than the airline industry.

In the U.S. and beyond, airline companies have been rocked or pushed out of existence. Companies like Chile’s LATAM, Virgin Australia, Avianca Holdings, Miami Air International, RavnAir, and many others have been wiped out into insolvency or bankruptcy. 

Once a prized staple of his portfolio, even Warren Buffet panicked and sold his beloved airline stocks almost at the bottom of their crash. 

But now, even though the circumstances that put them in this situation remain, airline executives are openly optimistic about their industry because of what they call “pandemic fatigue”, or a new rush of people who are so bored of lockdown that they’ll do anything to get away. 

Scott DeAngelo, chief marketing officer of Allegiant Air, said there is a divergence between the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic and the desires of travelers.

“Based both on what our customers are saying and what our customers are doing, we see a clear divergence in terms of their attitudes toward the pandemic and their intentions towards leisure air travel. That is to say, customers believe the situation may once again be getting worse, but their leisure travel activity or their travel booking intent remains largely unchanged.”

Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines said that bookings “had flat-lined a bit” but that he still expected stronger demand during the holidays.

Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue Airways, is also bullish towards his industry’s outlook.

“We have seen signs of pent-up demand from customers who want to visit their family and friends or go on vacation… We think that traffic is going to hold up pretty well.”

Hopper’s Holiday Confidence report backs up the airlines’ confidence with their own numbers: 

“While air travel is still down considerably compared to the same time last year, recent data from the TSA found that travel has increased 700% since early days of the pandemic. Though when and why to travel is personal, changing temps and recent trends have many Americans starting to consider their plans for the holiday season—whether that’s hitting the road, skies, or just staying home… According to Hopper’s new Holiday Travel Confidence Report, 39% of people say they plan to travel during the holidays this year. However, 21% have said they do not plan to travel, though in a typical year they would.”

American Airlines recorded in July that only 20% of its flights were more than 80% full, but in September that number grew to 45%. 

This new optimism comes as the U.S. is experiencing roughly 570,000 new coronavirus cases per week, and many public officials are pressuring their citizens to just stay home completely.

Among them is Chicago’s Public Health Commissioner, who said this week, “I am not planning to travel this Thanksgiving unless we see significant improvements… I would encourage you— especially if you normally are getting together with people who are older or have underlying health conditions—to think seriously about whether this is the year for travel.”

Mayor of New York City Bill DeBlasio is also blatantly telling his citizens not to do any traveling. 

“…I want to recommend to all New Yorkers, it’s not business as usual. I hate to say it, but I have to urge all New Yorkers, do not travel out of state for the holidays.”

Despite the onslaught of anti-traveling rhetoric coming from public officials, media, and health experts, the airline industry is putting up a good fight. Key to their survival is the obsessive new hygienic standards which are likely convincing otherwise skittish travelers. 

In October, a consortium of airlines funded a Harvard study that claimed to show that flying on a plane was less risky than going to the grocery store, citing the highly effective ventilation systems in planes that “counters the proximity travelers are subject to during flights.” 

The Department of Defense also did a study on the effectiveness of airline ventilation and found results consistent with those of the Harvard study. 

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