Airlines have indicated they will cancel more flights due to dropping demand over the holiday period, but consumers are sending a different message.
CDC Urges Travelers To Stay Home for Holidays
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked Americans to avoid traveling during the holiday season in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and expanding positive coronavirus test results.
The agency has not only suggested that passengers avoid air travel and practice social distancing, but also that they limit or cancel holiday plans with family and friends.
“Please be more careful around Thanksgiving so that we can have a merry Christmas, otherwise there’s a real chance that we’re going to see explosive spread of COVID throughout December as a result of the Thanksgiving holidays,” – CBS News
Airlines See Dropping Demand, Cancel Flights
United, in specific, has already seen flight cancellations and drops in new flight demand. However, airlines including United and American Airlines are adding flights to their depleted schedules to accommodate traffic needs.
This is confusing and could be seen as contradictory. Flights being added are specifically holidays flights and cancelations will be broader outside of specific holiday travel periods. For clarity, United and American are adding a combined 1,900 flights for Thanksgiving but cutting back elsewhere throughout the season.
Alaska Airlines added some context stating that despite Thanksgiving traffic, overall numbers for the Seattle carrier will be down 200,000 passengers for the month.
Lots of Americans Choosing to Travel Anyway
More than half (56%) of all Americans are planning to travel for Thanksgiving. That’s down drastically with regard to pre-pandemic levels compared to last year. Many are planning to drive instead of using the Wednesday before and Sunday after as days to fly.
Airline passengers traveling to see family, in a year where extended family contact has been at a premium, will take to the skies despite record COVID-19 infection levels in the United States.
Holiday airline travel is usually one of the busiest times of the year. For obvious reasons this year is different. While United has advised investors that demand is down and cancelations will increase, they’ve added flights (along with others) to accommodate American travelers that will fly anyway.
What do you think? Will millions of US travelers take to the skies for Thanksgiving? Will they drive instead or will they stay home?