No one can argue that COVID19, the coronavirus pandemic, has changed the world as we knew it. Our carefree lifestyles that gave Americans the ability to get-up-and-go on a moments notice, whether it be to a restaurant, sporting event, or a distant destination half-way around the world, are no longer. And while every industry has felt the impact of the spreading virus, perhaps none has been impacted more than the airlines.
According to the association that represents the major U.S. carriers, Airlines for America (A4A), the devastation to the industry is so severe that a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels isn’t anticipated before 2024, at best. And the industry’s most lucrative flier, the business traveler, may never return to the skies in the numbers that they did in recent years. The days of having to meet face-to-face may indeed be over.
The CEO of AFA, Nicholas Calio, commented during a recent phone call with reporters, “We don’t see any significant increase in demand…..People talk about the situation being dire. It is dire. Right now, we’re fighting for survival. No bones about it.”
The airline industry has quickly downsized in recent months with airlines flying fewer flights to fewer destinations. There has been extremely slow growth in passenger volume, and the fall months are typically a slow time period for travel, especially for leisure travelers. And it’s leisure travelers who eventually will lead the return to the skies, but at the present time the fear of contracting COVID19 is just too high for most Americans to plan a getaway.
The AFA stats paint a very disturbing picture. Compared to a year ago, passenger volumes have decreased by 70 percent, and 29 percent of airline fleets remain on the ground with no need to be prepped for flying. As for actually bookings, they are down 73 percent from last year, with revenue for tickets that have been purchased being depressed by 86 percent. It’s no wonder that the airline industry continues to call for increased government aid to help them just survive the pandemic.
Airlines, hotels and car rental companies around the world have already furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers, and many more will be permanently out of work in the months ahead without government action. Add the snowball effect of fewer flights with fewer travelers, a dramatic reduction in hotel occupancy and rental car needs, and all of the other effects of people staying home, and it’s difficult if not impossible to be optimistic about the future of the travel industry.
While life will eventually return to a new normal, it’s going to a bumpy, rollercoaster ride for the foreseeable future. Hang on tight and be on the lookout for anticipated amazing deals for leisure travelers when a successful vaccine finally arrives. Hopefully, that day isn’t too far off, though it’ll surely be many months before vaccinations become available.
As for yours truly who has an insatiable desire to continue traveling the world, whatever the “new normal” turns out to be, I’m ready for it to arrive. Until then, a much anticipated and delayed trip to Austria and the Dolomites is booked a few months from now in the hope that it’ll soon be time to fly again.