The demand for air travel has begun to plummet as the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus continues to spread rapidly. According to reports from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), cancellations have been on the rise this month alongside less passenger loads and lower air fares.
TSA reported that 1.7 million people were screened nationwide this Tuesday, the lowest number of air travelers in nearly two months. Southwest Airlines also claimed to see an uptick in cancellations according to their recent financial filings.
Southwest is predicting that the surge in cancellations will continue into September should the US not get the virus and its variants more under control. Many major US airlines were looking forward to the coming months due to an overall decrease in cases and spreading of the virus, but the delta variant has them all taking on a new attitude.
Travel booking site Hopper claimed that the domestic demand for travel hasn’t been this low since after the fourth of July.
“What we saw was that mid-July was one of our best booking weeks ever, so the domestic bookings were really strong in mid July, but on the domestic front we have seen bookings be pretty flat since then,” Hopper economist Adit Damodarn said.
Damodarn explained how international bookings have been hit even harder due to the increase in spreading and lack of proper vaccine rollout in many international countries.
“I think there’s a lot going on here that’s making people think twice about traveling. One of the big concerns for people going internationally is the chances of even if you’re vaccinated or getting an infection seem to be going up.”
“It may not be severe, but it does mean that you might not be able to come back into the U.S. for some time just because of the testing requirement. So with that I think you’re scaring some people off. And then, of course, we have the just general concern about getting sick, going to places where there is more virus,” Founder of crankyflier.com Brett Snyder said.
Hopper also noted that more fliers have been purchasing “cancel-for-any-reason” flight insurance since the variant began spreading more rapidly in July.
“The rate in which people are purchasing flight insurance is up about 33% when compared to last month. So I think what we’re seeing here is a little bit of hesitancy.”
Average air booking prices are currently down $76 on average as well.
“We’re seeing a significant drop in domestic and international airfare. It’s a little bit more than the seasonality that we have seen in prior years, and so that would suggest to us that there’s both the seasonal variation coming off the peak summer travel season, as well as the impact of the delta variant,” Damodarn said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.