Airlines Get Ready for Takeoff this Summer
Pent Up Demand Drives Bookings
American Airlines (AAL) is planning to return to an almost normal summer schedule as more people receive COVID-19 vaccinations and begin to travel again. After more than a year of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions, there’s pent up demand for travel.
American Airlines and several other carriers have added flights within the US as well as to Mexico and the Caribbean as demand increases. The summer tends to be the busiest and most profitable time of year for airlines. Last summer schedules had to be scaled back after rising coronavirus cases led to more travel restrictions in the US and around the world. With vaccinations now rolling out at a rapid pace, airlines finally expect demand for flights to get close to pre-pandemic levels.
American Airlines to Offer Over 90% of Pre-Pandemic Seating Capacity
This summer, American Airlines plans to offer more than 90% of its pre-pandemic seating capacity in the US and about 80% of its international capacity. The airline operator will fly 150 new routes, and will focus on taking passengers to places with outdoor leisure options like national parks and beaches. American Airlines is also adding weekly nonstop flights to Orlando from eight cities.
So far, customers seem eager to book flights for summer travel. “Despite continuing to add more and more capacity in these markets, the bookings just keep coming,” said Brian Znotins, American Airlines’ Vice President of Network and Scheduling.
Concerns for Airlines
The airline industry’s summer plans could backfire if new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in some states across the country. Michigan just resumed lockdown restrictions in response to an increase of cases for a more transmissible virus variant. Tuesday, the FDA decided to pause rollout of the Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) COVID-19 vaccine because of six cases of blood clotting in people who received the shot. This has caused some to worry that it will now take longer than expected for the US to achieve herd immunity.
Additionally, demand for international travel and flights in parts of the Northeast is still lackluster. The airline industry hasn’t seen a pickup in business travel either. Despite these remaining challenges, airlines are optimistic that this past year of turbulence is almost over.
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