US Air Travel Falters for First Time Since April Amid New COVID-19 Outbreaks

July 20, 2020
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Although U.S. airlines were hoping that the lifting of lockdowns and Americans’ irrepressible desire for summer travel would somewhat bolster revenue amid the pandemic, it appears that the slow increase observed over recent weeks has dipped back down again, as the country grapples with containing a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections.

Airlines have always depended upon the warm-weather season—usually a reliable revenue generator—to maintain their yearly financial balances. Amid the economic downturn created by the pandemic, carriers have been counting on at least some degree of continued summer travel demand to help them compensate for this year’s unprecedented losses.

CNBC reported that, during the week ending July 19, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened a total of 4.65 million passengers at U.S. airport checkpoints—a fall of four percent from the previous week. It’s the first time since April, when commercial air travel hit its lowest point in half a century, that the passenger trends have deviated from following a slow, but steady, increase.

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Things had been improving, but, with a surge of new coronavirus cases arising throughout the southern and western states, Americans’ fears of flying seem to have taken hold.

Newly devised interstate travel restrictions and reopening reversals in various parts of the U.S. are no doubt also deterring would-be flyers from planning trips, or inspiring them to take their summer vacations at drive-to destinations much closer to home.

“Demand has stalled as the virus has grown, particularly down here in the South, across the Sun Belt, coupled with the quarantine measures that are going in place in many of the Northern states,” Delta Air Lines’ CEO, Ed Bastian, told CNBC’s Squawk Box in a July 14 interview. “Those two factors are causing consumers to pause.”

The rapidly fluctuating market is prompting airlines to alter their August schedules, cutting back on new flights they’d announced only weeks before.

Spirit Airlines recently reduced its schedule for next month and Delta Air Lines announced last week that it would be halving the number of departures it had planned to add to its August schedule, operating only 500 per day nationwide.



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