Airlines Expect Busy Holiday Travel Season

Omicron Isn’t Keeping Travelers at Home

Despite rising cases of COVID-19 spurred on by the Omicron variant, Delta Air Lines (DAL), United Airlines (UAL), and Southwest Airlines (LUV) are preparing to fly large numbers of holiday travelers in the coming days. Some US carriers expect volume to be higher than Thanksgiving, when passenger numbers reached highs not seen since the pandemic began.

United Airlines expects to transport about 420,000 passengers per day from December 16 through January 3, which is a 5% increase in daily volume when compared to Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines is forecasting 7.8 million customers will fly on its planes during the holidays. This would be the most passengers on Delta planes since the pandemic started.

Airlines Expect to Beat Thanksgiving Volumes

Optimism on the part of the airlines comes as surging cases of COVID-19 are prompting shutdowns of restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. Countries around the world are also restricting travel to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In spite of these developments, airports are already teeming with travelers. Since Monday, the Transportation Security Administration said over two million people have passed through airports daily. That is the longest period of more than two million daily travelers since Thanksgiving week. Passenger volumes remain about 16% lower than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Surges More Palatable These Days

The airline industry has had several fits and starts since the pandemic began. After air traffic came to a halt when COVID-19 first struck, US carriers saw a huge spike in demand in the summer and fall. The Delta variant hurt demand for flights, but the industry was able to recover quickly.

The airline industry has grown accustomed to dealing with swings in demand. In spite of the Omicron variant, many air carriers are optimistic about the future. Both Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines recently said they expect revenue to be higher than previously anticipated in the fourth quarter.

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ABOUT Meg Richardson Meg Richardson is a writer specializing in markets, technology, and personal finance. She loves breaking down seemingly complex ideas and making them readable and interesting for everyone. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia University. When she is not writing about finance, she enjoys running in Central Park and drawing cartoons.

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