Is Air Travel Finally Back?
Friday saw a step in the right direction for air travel, as more than two million travelers passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints - the first time since March 2020 that such a milestone has been reached.
Since February this year airline bookings have picked up as an increasing proportion of the population are now vaccinated and thus able to travel more easily. The easing of travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantines around the world has also encouraged globetrotters to make more bookings.
Although not as high as figures reported on the same day in 2019, passenger numbers from June 11 were still 1.5million more than the same day last year, according to the Transport Security Administration.
As well as passengers starting to enjoy their newfound freedoms, airlines, too, are looking hopeful at what is to come over the next few months.
The same Friday which saw a milestone at airport security checkpoints, United Airlines sent out a note to more than 40,000 of its employees detailing how this surge in travel will impact their staff:
Given the increase in customer demand and our current outlook for the future, we’re excited to announce that we will not need to furlough flight attendants assigned to active, open Inflight bases again this fall when the current Payroll Support Program (PSP) funding ends on October 1. This news provides great relief to many of our flying partners who were facing an uncertain future.
A decision not to furlough staff has put great confidence back into the airline industry as well as being a huge relief to flight attendants, ramp workers and customer service agents who faced potential job cuts as previous uncertainty loomed over them.
Not all airlines have had the same positive response to a surge in travel, however.
Despite unprecedented levels of summer travel demand just around the corner, American Airlines is asking employees to volunteer to work outside of normal hours without additional pay.
“As we look forward to welcoming back more of our customers this summer, we know they’re counting on us to deliver a reliable operation and help them feel comfortable as they return after many months away from travelling. That’s something our frontline teams are experts on as they regularly go above and beyond to take care of our customers,” a spokesperson for American Airlines told FOX Business in an email on Tuesday.
The staggering increase in travel bookings which the airline has received, combined with a 30% reduction in staff that it laid off last year, has meant that the airline is struggling to cope with an increase in demand.
They said that bookings have been able to increase as “infections and hospitalization rates have materially declined, and vaccine distribution has increased during the quarter,”.
Where are Americans Flying To?
National parks have recorded record numbers of visitors this year. Yellowstone National Park welcomed the most visitors it has ever recorded for the month of May, an 11% increase on the previous May record set in 2016.
Grant Teton National Park also set a May record, 30% up on visitors from 2020.
The U.S Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention have also issued updated travel advice, easing restrictions on more than 100 countries and opening up more destinations to COVID-19 vaccinated Americans.
European countries, including France and Spain, have also opened their borders to fully vaccinated Americans. Switzerland is opening its borders on June 28th to Americans who have had both their shots. The date also marks the full opening of tourism infrastructure, including restaurants, events and leisure facilities in the European country.
“I’m not only thrilled but also feel quite emotional that we can finally go back to what we do best; host guests from North America in our magnificent country,” Claudio Zemp, Director Americas for Switzerland Tourism, said in a statement.