It seems the only constant in travel during COVID-19 is unpredictability.
While US air travel has slowly been recovering, the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the Southern and Western states now has airlines worried.
According to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), United Airlines told its employees on Monday that reservations are decreasing given the spike in coronavirus cases.
Contributing to the fall in demand are new quarantines: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and cities like Chicago have implemented required 14-day quarantines for travelers visiting from COVID-19 hotspots.
This has softened demand for airline tickets, with people on the fence about flights now choosing to remain at home.
Other airlines have yet to indicate whether they face the same problem, but it’s likely to be the case.
At the start of July, demand for air travel appeared strong, at least in relative comparison to the past several months.
Federal data indicated a 90% rise in people in US airports during the first several days of July versus the same period a month ago.
But in comparison to July 2019, the same data indicates a 70% fall in demand.
United recently announced an expanded schedule including new international flights from Chicago to both Tel Aviv and Hong Kong in September. United’s increased schedule was in response to the increased travel demand of the past 30 days.
But recent travel anxiety amidst the COVID-19 rise shows the schedule additions may be premature.
And both United and American Airlines now sell full flights, no longer blocking middle seats to require social distancing. The airlines do notify passengers in advance if their flights have exceeded a specific capacity, and allowing them to reschedule.