The airline industry is once again taking a beating as accelerating coronavirus cases prompt the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to ask that people stay home for Thanksgiving, leading to a drop in reservations.
“Certainly with the increase in infection rates really throughout the country we’ve seen a dampening of demand,” American Airlines President Robert Isom said during the Skift Aviation Forum, per a Friday (Nov. 20) CNBC report.
“It’s really too soon to tell how deep and how long there may be a depressed environment but we’ve seen some weakening of bookings,” Isom added.
U.S. airlines have already lost over $20 billion in 2020 due to the global pandemic. Passenger traffic is about one-third down from 2019.
The second-highest one-day spike since the pandemic started in March — 170,100 new cases — was on Wednesday (Nov. 18), Johns Hopkins University data indicates. There were also over 79,000 hospitalizations reported on Wednesday. The seven-day average of daily new cases up 77 percent from two weeks earlier.
During an outbreak debriefing on Thursday (Nov. 20) Henry Walke, M.D., the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said the agency’s guidance for people not to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday is “a strong recommendation” and said that
Noting that officials are “alarmed,” Walke added, “with the exponential increase in cases and hospitalizations and deaths, we want to get out as much as possible and get our communication messages out in terms of the risk involved.”
Nicholas Calio, chief executive officer of the trade group Airlines for America, told reporters that the industry only wants people to travel “if it’s safe.”
Before the new spike in cases, it was anticipated that some 55 million Americans would travel over Thanksgiving, AAA Travel said, per a report in The New York Times. It is anticipated that it will be down at least 10 percent, the largest year-over-year decrease since 2008.
Reports indicate that some 50 million Americans are planning to go somewhere over the Thanksgiving holiday, which is usually among the busiest travel periods all year.
Between Nov. 5 and Nov. 13, over 1 million people tested positive for COVID-19.