Daily Podcast: U.S. Outbound Travel Upswing

Skift Take

Good morning from Skift. It’s Thursday, January 20, in New York City. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast discusses earnings reports from both United and American airlines, positive tourism news based on new research, and what travelers told Expedia about sustainability and vacations.



Episode Notes

Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

United Airlines and American Airlines both had their earnings calls on Thursday, during which recent challenges the two carriers have faced took center stage.

United had plans to fly more this year than in 2019 but they’ve been derailed by Omicron, writes Madhu Unnikrishnan, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift brand. The company has seen a huge drop in first quarter demand, which the Chicago-based carrier doesn’t expect to overcome this year as the decline in passenger bookings that started in December has continued into January. United anticipates first quarter revenue to between 20 and 25 percent lower than the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, American recently canceled numerous flights and delayed others due to the botched rollout of 5G wireless networks at certain U.S. airports, which several major airlines warned could have disrupted flights. But CEO Doug Parker expressed confidence that the worst of the disruptions related to the rollout is a thing of the past, writes Airlines Reporter Edward Russell.

Parker said that government agencies, planemarkers and telecom companies are now sharing information that will enable the safe rollout of the networks, which Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay to give the Federal Aviation Administration and airlines more time to determine any possible interference with flights across the U.S.

Next, international travel is showing signs of a rebound. Trips taken by Americans outside the U.S. hit a pandemic-era high in December, reports Vice President of Skift Research Haixia Wang.

Skift Research has released its U.S. Travel Tracker: December 2021 Highlights report, which revealed that close to 6 percent of trips Americans took last month were to another country, up from a little more than 4 percent in November. But despite that increase, international travel isn’t expected to reach pre-Covid figures anytime soon. Cross-border trips taken in 2022 are projected to be 64 percent below the 2019 level.

The report also found that the U.S. travel sector took a bit of a hit due to Omicron. Roughly 45 percent of Americans traveled in December, which was 2 percentage points lower than September’s number. However, the December 2021 figure was a significant increase from the 29 percent of Americans who traveled in the same month the previous year, when the Delta variant was spreading throughout the U.S.

Finally, although consumer behaviors have changed during the pandemic, one noticeable constant has remained. A large percentage of travelers are still interested in sustainable trips, writes Global Tourism Reporter Lebawit Lily Girma.

Expedia Group’s latest Traveler Value Index survey of more than 5,000 travelers found that close to 60 percent of them are willing to spend more to make a trip sustainable, a figure similar to the one recorded last summer. In addition, nearly half of those surveyed said they’d choose to visit less crowded places to avoid contributing to overtourism.

But despite the large interest in environmentally-friendly trips, only 38 percent of travelers indicated they would deliberately spend at locally-owned restaurants and businesses, which Girma writes may stem from a lack of understanding about what sustainability entails.

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