In a lengthy piece this week, the New York Times outlined five reasons why it believes summer travel is “poised to pop,” a statement that has the industry saying a silent “From your mouth to God’s ears” prayer.
In summary, here is how the Times laid it all out.
Leisure Travel Will Lead the Way
Airline travel is still off 53 percent from 2019 levels but that’s still a dramatic growth from last spring when it was down nearly 90 percent. Driving this all is leisure traffic.
With business travel still at a standstill, and companies finding it’s financially advantageous to host a Zoom meeting instead, the average plane in recent weeks has been about 64 percent full.
“People are sick of this paradise prison in their homes,” Helane Becker, an airline analyst at the investment bank Cowen, said. “I think we’ll see what I call a jailbreak this summer.”
Airfares Will Go Up
By gosh, it really could be like the good old days if demand dictates an increase in airfares. Peter Belobaba, who researches the global airline industry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said travelers can expect prices to yo-yo as airlines carefully manage seat pricing.
Hopper, the online travel agency, predicts summer airfares to increase by about 12 percent in May, but to stay low, with the average domestic round-trip flight estimated to top out around $257 in midsummer, compared to about $230 now.
Flexibility Will Go Back To Normal
Well, enjoy it while you can, ‘it’ being the financial rollercoaster that airlines have been on that has forced many of them to make drastic changes. Things such as no change fees that have been a blessing during the pandemic will go back to normal come the summer. Budget airlines, however, will keep prices in check.
“Leisure low-cost carriers will be back to 2019 levels this summer, maybe even a little bit higher,” said Savanthi Syth, an airline analyst at Raymond James & Associates.
Masks Will Stay
This is not a stretch. Face masks will stay. But food will return after many airlines ditched serving food and beverages at the height of the pandemic.
Easier Access To Outdoors
Again, something of a no-brainer. Most airlines, including United, have shifted more routes to vacation destinations from what had been business routes.