Last year, the onset of the pandemic devastated air travel as lockdown orders kept planes on the ground all over the world. After numerous airlines nearly collapsed as a result, the federal government provided the industry with three bailouts amounting to tens of billions of dollars in relief. This allowed airlines to keep many of their employees on the payroll while they waited to see if travel would recover. And now with ticket sales on the rise once again, analysts and airlines are optimistic that travel could return to something approaching normal this summer.
Although passenger traffic remains down by 40 percent compared to 2019, growing ticket sales as well as increasing vaccination rates have convinced some that the industry has turned a corner. For instance, Southwest Airlines plans to call back thousands of employees after turning a profit in the first three months of 2021, making it the first airline to do so since the start of the pandemic. “I’m relieved, I’m optimistic, I’m enthused, I’m grateful and I’m especially thankful to our tens of thousands of employees,” said Southwest CEO Gary Kelly recently to investors and analysts. “We’ve got a long way to go but I’m very, very confident.”
While other carriers did not fare as well, these companies are nevertheless expecting to see improvements as vaccinated passengers start traveling again in the coming months. “There is no doubt the pace of the recovery is accelerating,” said American Airlines CEO Doug Parker. Of course, the possible threat of Covid variants along with slow vaccination rollouts abroad could halt this recovery before it has a chance to start. But with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that travel poses little risk to vaccinated passengers, airlines are once again adding routes and rehiring workers to prepare for the predicated influx of traveling tourists.
- Why are airlines optimistic that Americans will return to traveling this summer?
- Do you think passengers will return to air travel in the coming months? Why or why not?