There has never been a more confusing time when it comes to flying. While most people have decided that now is not the time to take a vacation, there are still those among us, be it business or leisure travelers who are taking to the skies for a multitude of reasons. Whether this is smart or not won’t be known under the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. In the meantime, airlines are taking different actions to attract those travelers that intend to get away in the near future.
Probably the most user-friendly approach has been that of Delta Air Lines, which has committed to providing social distancing on its aircraft by blocking middle seats on its mainline flights at least through January 6. Smaller regional aircraft with two-by-two seating are also flying less than full, so that empty seats are adjacent to most travelers. Southwest Airlines offered a similar arrangement for several months but is returning to selling as many seats as possible beginning next month.
Proving that the airlines don’t know what to do anymore than the consumer does, JetBlue has just announced added Thanksgiving weekend flights, while American Airlines plans to reduce its holiday flight schedule by half.
JetBlue’s added service is focused on the New York City area, with 25 additional Thanksgiving weekend flights from JFK, Newark Liberty International and Westchester County airports to destinations in the Caribbean, Florida and trans-con to Los Angeles. The Queens, New York-based carrier has announced 60 new routes for next year with the focus being on its strongholds in the Northeast, Latin America, the Caribbean, Florida and California.
On the flip-side of the scheduling equation, American Airlines plans to fly 100,000 fewer flights during the holiday season, including service cutback at JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York. Other noticeable flight reductions have been made at its Chicago-O’Hare, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Los Angeles hubs. While the Ft. Worth-based carrier will still operate 105,619 flights in December, that is a reduction of 10,000 from November.
With the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reporting fewer than 600,000 travelers clearing its checkpoints last Tuesday, passenger traffic is only about 30 percent of the numbers from a year ago.
Given that all U.S. airlines are still flying far fewer flights than usual during the holiday season, with the exception of Delta, you can expect most if not all seats to be filled during the peak days around Thanksgiving.