Long Way to “Normalcy”: When Will Americans Return to Flying for Vacation and Business?

Airlines, meanwhile, face pent-up demand of the wrong kind.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Everyone is waiting for Americans to start flying again to get back to “Normalcy,” as it’s now called. So where are we now? On average over the past seven days, 1.09 million passengers per day passed TSA checkpoints at US airports, the highest since the collapse of air traffic a year ago, eking past the beaten-down holiday period at the end of 2020 and early 2021.

It was still down by 53.2% from the same week in 2019, a tad worse than the year-over-year drop during the holiday period. One year after the collapse of air travel, the hoped-for V-shaped recovery still looks dismal. But the trends, if you squint just right, show slight improvements in recent months:

International travel on US air carriers hit hardest.

The Department of Transportation released its preliminary data on air travel today, as reported monthly by the airlines to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), which provides more detail, but lags a little behind: In January, domestic air travel, as measured by the number of airline passengers, was down 63% year-over-year; and international travel on US air carriers was down 68%.

The BTS, beyond the preliminary data for January, also released detailed data for December, covering all US air carriers and all US airports. In terms of “revenue passenger-miles” – the number of passengers and miles flown: total air travel in December fell year-over-year by 66% to 30.8 billion passenger-miles flown:

  • Domestic: -62.1% (25.1 billion passenger-miles)
  • International: -77% (5.7 billion passenger miles):

Business travel may not return to Normalcy for years, if ever.

Business travel, according to numerous travel industry and corporate contemplations, will eventually resume, but only for situations where contractors, employees, or executives really need to be present in person. The rest of business travel, along with the expenses and loss of time, has been replaced by video conferencing, and the results have been good, and corporate cost cutters and efficiency experts are loving it, and business travel’s normalcy will look vastly different — meaning lower – than it did before.

Business travel, by its nature of being expense-account travel that someone else pays for, was the most lucrative end for airlines. Business travelers pay higher fares, often full fares so that they can be cancelled, and they often fly in business class or first class, and they’re far less likely to shop for the cheapest ticket on the cheapest flight. In terms of revenues for airlines, business travelers will be sorely missed.

Hopes for leisure travel are higher.

The hopes for leisure travel – to go on vacations or to see friends and family or to maintain long-distance relationships – are higher, and there is even talk about pent-up demand, with people flying on vacations three times a year instead of twice, for example.

But leisure travelers, to the exasperation of the airlines, are assiduous fare-shoppers who will try everything in the book to get the cheapest acceptable ticket to where they’re going. And the internet makes comparison shopping easy.

Pent-up demand of the wrong kind.

In addition, many people have ended up with unused tickets to international destinations from last spring when these flights were cancelled amid widespread restrictions on crossing borders, and they haven’t gotten their money back from the airlines. Instead they got “credits” to be used in the future, or they have the ability to use the ticket in the future without change-fee.

These pent-up travelers with such already paid-for but on-hold arrangements are hoping to use these credits or tickets to eventually fly to Japan (such as my wife), China, Europe, and a million other destinations.

When this wave finally starts rolling into airports — after border restrictions and impossible-to-navigate inconveniences, such as long quarantine requirements, are lifted – it will show up in travel data, such as the TSA’s checkpoint screenings. But for airlines, this wave of pent-up travel demand means zero revenues and cash-inflow, because that was taken in a over a year ago, but lots of expenses and cash-outflow since they will then have to provide the services. Pent-up demand of the wrong kind.

It will be interesting to see what kinds of restrictions US air airlines will impose on people with these credits or tickets that they’d paid for over a year ago — such as making only a few seats available for them per international flight, and perhaps only middle seats in the back?

 

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  147 comments for “Long Way to “Normalcy”: When Will Americans Return to Flying for Vacation and Business?

  1. Absur Ditty says:

    I would love to fly, but I don’t think I can afford it because my next stimulus check got cut from $2000 to $1400.

    Maybe after the $300/week extra unemployment starts flowing again. Then I’ll have enough $$ to fly around again. That’ll be good because I’m getting kind of bored just waiting for my next check.

    • MonkeyBusiness says:

      +1. I love your posts.

      Not only am I getting bored waiting for my next check, but I am still waiting for that spot to open up at Malibu so we can all take turns living the life!!!

      • BuySome says:

        Patience. First the psunami, then you build the barbeque pit. You’ll need at least a Fairline Skyliner when you arrive in shorts with boards. But don’t expect Dick Dale to be performing…most of the interesting people left on this beach have recently gone out with the tide. Bongo roll, please.

        • BuySome says:

          Er, tsunami. Been writing “pseudo” a lot for other reasons.

        • robert says:

          Psunami is good. This is the Age of Scary Possibilities, previously known as the Age of the Precautionary Principle.
          Because there are cycles of history, I’m anxiously awaiting the return of the Age of Reason. Failing that I’m glad I’m the age I am and don’t want to travel any more except to sneak down to the beach on my bike.

    • Joan of Arc says:

      I hope I don’t see pictures in the news of security forces with clubs dragging people in the prone position down the airplane isles because they refused to sit in the middle seats towards the back of the airplane as they tried to redeem their unused tickets from last year.

      • Joe Saba says:

        big stimi goes to bankrupt airlines
        you get paltry $1400 – doesn’t even cover taxes owed to corrupt govt
        they just keep on stealing and telling you to be happy

        • DumbberryLane says:

          “ they just keep on stealing and telling you to be happy”
          That’s some straight shooting dar thar partner.
          Except for the way I feel about these noisy neighbors in this here trailer park,

      • Arakawa says:

        20210 BC: Cavemen with clubs dragging people.
        2021 AD: Cavemen with clubs dragging people off an airplane.

        And they say history doesn’t rhyme….

    • c1ue says:

      What nonsense. The $300 unemployment top=ups are already in progress.
      But it is clear you are just talking for comedic effect.

  2. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    You will only be able to use your credits to fly aboard the newly patched up 737 max.

  3. MiTurn says:

    If things return to status-quo-ante-Covid, yes, I think that international air travel will resume in earnest. But, specific destinations must be welcoming, if you know what I mean.

    But what will our rapidly inflated dollar be worth?

    • RightNYer says:

      That’s the one advantage to the dollar dropping against foreign currency, making it cheaper for foreigners to visit. Assuming they want to after crime continues skyrocketing.

      • Stanny1 says:

        Foreigners then making their visit “Permanent”.

        • Anthony A. says:

          We have an influx of that kind down near the Texas/Mexico border. No need for them to fly to get here. All is good though, we need more landscape crews now that all of Texas needs “replanting” after the recent “frost”. LOL

        • Kon Spi says:

          Not only that, but cheap tickets for leisure travelers can be possible only by a certain mean level of traveling, otherwise either waiting lists or structural inflation will hit the prices.

        • karamba says:

          according to wiki article, Foreign-born population in the United States in 2019 by country of birth, the only 3 countries from EU that have people still coming to US is Poland, Romania, and Denmark. +12.5 thousand migrants a year. Even Lithuania has -400 migration to US, and I still remember how in 2000s many of us dreamed about emigrating to US. I dont think anyone from EU wants to go to US anymore, except for really high paying jobs, just to migrate back after a few years. I would definitely still LOVE to take AMTRACK through the Rockies or southern states

      • c1ue says:

        I wrote months ago that the flights from non-blue cities to other non-blue cities were packed – at least all of the ones I was on.
        The only exception was Houston to Miami (post freeze).
        Even the SF to Orlando flights were packed coming and going.
        The volume, of course, is lower and the state of packedness entirely due to fewer flights but the SF to anywhere flights were generally so light (with single exception noted above) that I got free bumped to 1st class.
        This would never happen in normal times as I am typically in the 15th-20th from top in the lists.

    • K says:

      Agreed. Our US dollar will probably only buy a paperclip soon. However, normalcy seems like a forlorn dream.

  4. A says:

    I’m not a buyer of the airlines. Airlines don’t make any money on us human cargo in economy going on vacation. Airlines make money on the guys in business class who don’t care what the price is because corporate is paying.

    Every zoom meeting, webinar, and home office is an overly-expensive ticket at the front of the plane somebody isn’t buying.

    • shandy says:

      Airlines make money from offering crappy service, government bailouts, breaking up unions, downsizing what can by destroying worker retirements, artificially inflating financial scores, creating the illusion of grand success, forcing lengthy litigation on safety and consumer damages along with other irregularities, all the while giving incredibly enormous bonuses, stock options, salaries, golden parachute plans to their top tier CEO’s and Lobbyists and one or two politicians/government worker for life
      Sneak thieves….

  5. OutWest says:

    Looks like the US will reach herd immunity in about 16 weeks, in mid July. I’ll bet domestic air travel will spike right about then. People visiting family will lead the way.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      OutWest,

      “Spike” = air travel -30% instead of -53% now?

      People visiting their family is only part of air travel.

      Vacations to foreign destinations is another part. Borders have to be open before that is happening.

      And a big part is business air travel, and that’s not going back to where it was for years, if ever.

      • roddy6667 says:

        Getting some form of internationally accepted electronic form of proof of vaccination and negative COVID tests (yes, plural) will need to happen before travel around the world resumes. No country will allow sick people to fly into their airports.

        • WES says:

          Canada does! You can fly but not drive into Canada!

        • Paulo says:

          Misleading Wes,

          You have to be pre approved and have a 14 day quarantine arranged. Plus, it cannot be simple discretionary travel, like tourism.

          In our area we have regular tourists that have visited every summer for 25 years. All have decided to not even apply this year and one is selling their property as I write.

          I also suspect the US/Canada border will remain closed for at least 6 more months, maybe longer.

          regards

        • rodocostarica says:

          Costa Rica and Mexico allow tourists in without any test or quarantine.
          My guess is once this covid further reduces and with more jabs countries will be opening up to attract foreign reserves and help unemployment.

          This thing is just about done. Get ready for big rush to travel for tourism.

        • robert says:

          Wes, you can also walk over the border between NY and Quebec. Just throw away any ID, and you will be greeted by RCMP who will assist you with your luggage and set you up with accommodation, an income, and free healthcare. There is a taxi shuttle service in nearby Champlain to take you up Roxham Road to the border.

      • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

        Business travel. Well I am not sure how companies are going to be able to explain to the board why the line item for business travel has increased. They were I am sure really happy to see the number / line item on the reports showing near zero. This is going to throw EPS off. Awwww just kidding. EPS died with C-Economy

        • intosh says:

          Can’t say I agree that much of business travel will permanently be replaced by videoconferencing. I think videoconferencing permanently eliminates a significant portion of in-office presence, so less commuting. But business travel is a lot about the intangible of in-person relationship, e.g. showing your customers that you “care” and showing a potential client that you value their business; a sales guy can’t take a client to diner on zoom. Some business will surely try to reduce/eliminate their business travel but they will soon realize that they are at a disadvantage versus a competitor who went through the trouble of sending someone meet with their customer. Business dealings is a lot about politics and the intangibles (e.g. giving a client the warm and fuzzy feeling) and business travel is the best way to satisfy those.

      • MCH says:

        “And a big part is business air travel, and that’s not going back to where it was for years, if ever.”

        Therefore, it is logical that the cattle class will get better treatment from the airlines, and better service, since the bread and butter flyers in business class are no longer going to be there to support revenue. Must treat the cattle class a bit better to keep their business.

        Heh, that or an increase in the rates around ancillary revenue.

        Carry on bag: $25/person;
        Checking in bag: varies as function of weight;
        Earphones: $20/person;
        Food: $varies;
        beverage: varies;
        Water: $1/12 oz;
        bathroom: $55 per trip or wear a daiper. in case one is not available, airline will provide at cost of $35 per diaper, and $25 to access a private room where you can get into it;

    • char says:

      Until covid does a Manaus

    • Robert says:

      “Looks like the US will reach herd immunity in about 16 weeks, in mid July. ”

      The risk of a variant emerging that resists the current vaccines is growing. We have only partially effective vaccines that as far as I know do not reduce the risk of spreading the major strains of COVID. (hey, good masks do that too!) The incomplete eradication of the virus turns each vaccinated individual into a mini bio-reactor for the selection of new strains. (You know how your doc tells you to complete your antibiotic course so antibiotic resistant strains don’t arise? Well something similar here. You’re healthy in the short term but new strains are evolving inside you and subsequently being spread).

      I see pictures of Chaos on the southern border, and apparently no one in Washington is aware that COVID variants are destroying Brazil. Bad news for travel anytime soon. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

  6. William Smith says:

    Everything will return to normal when the sheeple stop listening to the proven liars in the (so called) W.H.O. and take their power back. America used to be great, not a nation of girly men. The truth is dawning on a few states, but much more need to follow. Some have recognized that freedom as defined in the constitution is worth fighting for.

    • char says:

      Probably written by somebody that hasn’t left home in a year and only accepts packages wearing a full hazard suit

    • Stuart says:

      The Constitution institutionalized slavery and the anti democratic Senate. Not that another reason was needed, but the recent decision by Texas CEO Abbott to end mandatory mask usage is a good reason to boycott Texas.

      • CreditGB says:

        No one has ever denied anyone the right to wear a mask if they so choose.

        Yet somehow, a lying Government’s “mandates” forcing masks are just accepted as virtuous. See data on lockdown vs non lockdown states.

        Have we sunk so far into tyranny that we are now suggesting boycotting freedom of choice? Perhaps this is where the acceptance of CCP’s full control has sprung. Government tyranny anywhere in history has never ended well or benefitted anyone but the tyrants. Need to wake up folks.

        Sorry if this is leaning toward politics.

    • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

      If only we had a trust fund, money laundering reality tee-vee star that can’t understand why we don’t “use” nuclear weapons!?!

      Then we could be tough and strong again.

      Too bad they were so lazy they stole Reagan’s campaign slogan! DERP!!!

  7. MCH says:

    meh, just make sure everyone gets an app that has an equivalent of a verifiable vaccine passport, and we can all be on our way back to normal.

    Europe is trying to implement one, if it works there, it should work everywhere else.

    “papers, please?”

    The net effect of this though should hopefully be higher ticket prices, fewer pax, and better service on the airlines….

    Ha ha, ok, that was a bit of a stretch

    • char says:

      A vaccine doesn’t stop you from getting sick. It just makes the chance much smaller and the same is true for spreading.

      A vaccine passport is an idea from the travel branch. The part that didn’t fail at becoming a doctor. Mixing large groups of vaccinated people with covid spreaders is how you get new covid lines that are immune to a vaccine.

      • MCH says:

        “A vaccine doesn’t stop you from getting sick.” Sounds a lot like what you get with a lot of anti-viral drugs, where the line is “the drug does not eliminate the virus from you, it’s just that the viral load count goes to nearly undetectable levels as long as you’re on the drug.” Ok, there are obvious semantic differences here, but you get the idea.

        “Mixing large groups of vaccinated people with covid spreaders is how you get new covid lines that are immune to a vaccine”

        Cool… we can do Mendel’s experiment in an unconstrained environment and see what we get out of it.

        • char says:

          It is more without vaccine 500 out of a 1000 get sick, with it is only one. But that one can obviously spread it. And if you have groups of vaccinated and non vaccinated then you can get a selection process going for selecting a vaccine immune virus.

          That is why vaccinating teachers and not the highschool students is asking for problems

        • MCH says:

          Well, let’s not stop at high school students, anyone under the age of 16 techincally is a threat. Those little kindergartners, superspreaders, the snot rags in elementary, total biological weapons of mass destruction.

          So, in that sense, the teacher’s unions are dead on. Those kids can be vectors for all sorts of nasty things, what if all the teachers are vaccinated, but they intermingle with kids were aren’t and might be carrying some kind of Covid strain or mutant that becomes superimmunized against the vaccine, and they evolve to become some kind of superCoivd and are super deadly after a gestation period of say six months.

          OMG… the FDA need to speed up pediatric testing for Covid vaccine, drop everything now…. focus all the resources of the world on beating this bug.

          Heh heh, sorry, getting a bit carried away there. :P

  8. Artem says:

    Excellent charts, as always.

    Anyone who was planning to fly in March 2020 got a voucher for a 2021 flight. This could be a factor in how you count revenue.

  9. MonkeyBusiness says:

    I need to get out of the US before these so called “vaccines” become mandatory for anything.

    And no, I am not an anti vaxxer. I am however suspicious of any vaccine approved for Emergency Use. It’s also pretty scary how Pfizer is bullying third world countries like the following:

    “Pfizer reportedly asked governments in Argentina and Brazil to put up sovereign assets, including military bases and federal bank reserves, as collateral for potential future legal costs. ”

    I mean it either works or it does not.

    • Ross says:

      What specifically makes you suspicious of Emergency Use approval? The vaccines went through the standard phase 1,2,3 trials every other drug goes through. There is no evidence I’ve seen of any compromise in safety or effectiveness standards. In my view, Emergency Use just means the FDA doesn’t spend 2 years twiddling its thumbs before granting approval.

      As for Pfizers potential legal costs, unfortunately we live in a world where “works” is not decided by science, but by expensive lawyers and emotional juries.

      • roddy6667 says:

        Decided by 12 people not smart enough to get out of jury duty.

      • DawnsEarlyLight says:

        It also means that no alternate form of treatment could be recognized, otherwise no EUA.

      • CRV says:

        “The vaccines went through the standard phase 1,2,3 trials every other drug goes through.”

        Not completely true. Normally a stage 3 trial includes studies for long term effects and studies about effects on next generations. These studies sometimes take years. Time we didn’t/don’t have and can’t afford to lose and therefore they are skipped by approving the vaccines for emergency use. The long term effects we have to find out about in practice instead of in a controlled environment. Those are unknown risks. And some people are not willing to undergo them.

        • VintageVNvet says:

          And some people are unable to undergo those risks because of what is now being called being immunocompromised,,, which is a long word for being proven to be able to catch a cold when a person two blocks away sneezes crv.
          What to do for those folks?
          Basically, just upgrade the policies and practices of good PUBLIC health prevention, eh?
          And maybe keep on working to come up with some really effective methods for actual treatment??? NAH, that would be too kind, and certainly not as profitable.

      • NoPrep says:

        I think you are a bit naive here Ross. Have you seen the Pfizer rap sheet? Bad, criminal behavior has been BAU for a long time, with this company that we are supposed to fully trust with their new product. Here’s a sample:

        In 2000 the Washington Post published a major exposé accusing Pfizer of testing a dangerous new antibiotic called Trovan on children in Nigeria without receiving proper consent from their parents. The experiment occurred during a 1996 meningitis epidemic in the country. In 2001 Pfizer was sued in U.S. federal court by thirty Nigerian families, who accused the company of using their children as human guinea pigs.

        In 2006 a panel of Nigerian medical experts concluded that Pfizer had violated international law. In 2009 the company agreed to pay $75 million to settle some of the lawsuits that had been brought in Nigerian courts.The U.S. case was settled in 2011 for an undisclosed amount.

        Classified U.S. State Department cables made public in 2010 by Wikileaks indicated that Pfizer had hired investigators to dig up dirt on Nigeria’s former attorney general as a way to get leverage in one of the remaining cases. Pfizer had to apologize over the revelation in the cables that it had falsely claimed that the group Doctors Without Borders was also dispensing Trovan during the Nigerian meningitis epidemic.

      • cd says:

        it did not go thru standard FDA testing….it takes years….

    • Michael Gorback says:

      “I mean it either works or it does not.”

      That’s what I think about my car every morning. Kidding aside, nothing is 100%. It’s unrealistic to think the vaccines should protect everyone.

      I was going to wait until June or July and see how it played out. I have a few tools at my disposal that most people don’t.

      One is my 42 years of medical experience. I’ve lived through some terrible health disasters, some of which actually happened. Sorry if you suffered through all those egg white omelets. I never believed that hysteria and it turned out to be much more complicated than eating meat, dairy, and eggs.

      Second is my experience doing research while on the faculty at Duke for 8 years as well as sitting on the Institutional Review Board evaluating hundreds of human research proposals. I was also on the editorial board of a medical journal. I think I have a grasp of what good research design is and isn’t and which research is garbage.

      You can prove anything with statistics but only to people who don’t understand statistics.

      The best tool at my disposal is my son-in-law, who works for Dr Doudna, recent Nobel Prize winner for her work with PCR and CRISPR. He pioneered PCR detection of covid and he’s my go-to guy for covid. While we were hiding at home, he went to the lab at Berkeley and converted their lab equipment to do PCR detection for covid.

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewwight/2020/05/03/this-costa-rican-and-these-robots-could-close-californias-coronavirus-testing-gap/

      That’s right. Forbes. And BTW he’s Costa Rican and Chinese, Forbes! How else do you get a name like Enrique Lin Shiao? Growing up in the Barrio in China?

      We talked last Fall about waiting to get vaccinated and agreed it was too soon even though the technology was theoretically safe compared to virus-based vaccines. But then came the post-holiday resurgence and we figured the risk-benefit ratio had changed.

      Other than sprouting these little cone-shaped things all over my skin no side effects. I can roll around on my clothes to remove dog hair. Always look at the bright side of life (name that movie).

      I’ve been vaccinated and my 92 year old mother has been vaccinated, so I eat my own cooking.

      Based on my clinical and research experience and having a front row seat at the lab in Berkeley, I think I made the right decision.

      It might have been a mistake, or maybe I’ll live and you’ll die in the street.

      Meanwhile Enrique is spending his time doing what he loves: refolding DNA molecules to make them smaller. I have no idea why. Is it so you can fit more of them in a Southwest Airlines seat?

      • WES says:

        Michael:

        Just a question. What does the good doctor think about fears or concerns these prophylactic vaccines might trigger viral immune escape for covid-19 viruses, such as antimicrobial resistance has occurred with antiviral antibiotics?

        Thanks.

    • Lisa says:

      Well those of us who have received both doses can report back to you if we have any issues in the future. Personally, I could care less abt any long term effects. We will all be underwater soon anyway

    • Wolf Richter says:

      OK, time for the promised update:

      My wife, who qualified for a vaccine because she has been going to the office every day (works for an “essential business”) got vaccinated on Tuesday.

      I, who is finally old enough to qualify for something, got my jab yesterday.

      Side effects: slightly sore shoulder, for both of us. We’re still alive and kicking at the moment.

      It was a Moderna shot. We didn’t get to shop vaccines. Take it or leave it.

      Our second jab is scheduled for April.

      This was a mass-vaccination site put in place by our healthcare provider. Everything was well-organized with no waits, except after the jab, when they made you stay for something like 15 minutes to check for allergic reactions.

      We have thereby joined the 66 million Americans who have received at least one jab.

      So far so good.

      We’ll keep you posted on our little sample of 2 if anything happens, and of course on the 2nd jab, and the expected bigger side effects, and anything that happens afterwards.

      • Khowdung Flunghi says:

        Had “round two” 10 days ago – Moderna. Overall, meh! Second shot left me and Ms. Flunghi a little “low-energy” the day after. May have been the vaccine, may have been the letdown from the stress anticipating “round two”. Beyond that, meh!

      • Ted says:

        Wolf: 3/10 was my full immunity day. I got the Pfizer shot; tolerated the first dose, no problems, second shot I felt like I had the flu for a day and a half. My wife, who can’t tolerate anything had no reaction to either shot. Good luck

      • Anthony A. says:

        Wife and I got our first Moderna shot 1/6 and the second one 2/6. No issues with either. I played golf the day after I had shot #2 and played the best round I have had in years. I can’t wait for #3 shot!!! (LOL)

      • CreditGB says:

        Wolf, I am happy that you still have a personal choice in your medical care here in the USA.

        We are now teetering on the brink of losing the personal choice to mandated treatment.

        As history has always shown, once the power of mass mandates is seized, that power spreads quickly, and is never relinquished.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          CreditGB,

          You know that there is a mandate in the US to drive on the right side of the road and stop at a red light. People who violate the mandate can kill others or get killed. That’s why there are public mandates. You do not have the freedom to drive on the left side of the road and run red lights. Yes, you can do it, but there are consequences.

        • MCH says:

          Wolf,

          I wouldn’t call driving on the right side of the road is a mandate. It’s part of the law, if you drove on the left side, you get stopped, ticketed, and if you persist, you lose your license, and so forth. But any idiot who did that are not likely to survive very long any way.

          Masking as a mandate was never taken seriously because it was never a law, it was never an offense for which the penalty is more than a fine, and a light one at that. And let’s face it, unlike in China and India, where masking is a good idea because of the horrible levels of pollution, in the US is not quite like that, and so there is no precedent for pushing it. So, it’s not strange to understand why masking has worked out so well in places like China. There is also a cultural thing to “trust” the authorities to a higher degree.

          Vaccinations are necessary, but when you have the media who politicized the vaccine routinely when one side is in charge by saying how impossible it is to get it through in less than a year, and kept saying they shouldn’t trust it, but changes their tune the second their favorite political party gets in. Then toss in those who were naturally disinclined toward vaccine to start with. Well, can you blame the public for being skeptical?

          What’s worse, the vaccine manufacturers are immune to legal actions if something happens. For example, if five years down the road, the mRNA vaccine is found to cause some serious medical conditions, then there is no recourse. Well, to anyone rational looking at this situation, it makes you wonder what to trust.

        • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

          Perhaps we should live in anarchy?

          Would that be better than those pesky rules?

          Teetering on losing personal choice? Americans have been brainwashed for decades! Talk to some of them sometime, they’ll tell you amazing things like Joe Biden is a robot.

        • Gerrard White says:

          @GB

          I do not agree with you, quite, nor with WR, quite

          There are commonly established customs and rules of behaviour, some of which are codified into law

          Driving is one – but this is an autonomous and voluntary activity, not a necessity

          An enforced health mandate is entirely different – if vaccine, why not obesity jab, etc – & on the same grounds: health is communal and therefore a matter of authority

          Except the authorities can barely maintain the roads (see ASCE report cards) they have very badly mismanaged the covid crisis, and they have given vaccine makers a pass on liability

          Why trust incompetents with your health – if the population is to be deprived of any responsibility for their health it is only for the purpose of making money out of their continual ill health, and to facilitate control of the weakened

    • MonkeyBusiness says:

      A vaccine that absolutely works? How about polio? I took that as a kid. No probs till now.

      • Jdog says:

        The polio vaccine was a “real” vaccine, which triggered your natural immune system. m RNA’s are not natural, it is artificial. They trick the immune system into producing antigens. It is a promising technology, but one that we still do not fully understand the mechanics, or the implications of. In past trials, some mRNA’s have caused antigens to attack host cells or created tumors or cancers. The only way to know exactly what a mRNA response is going to be in the long run is wait and see.

        • MonkeyBusiness says:

          That’s why I said in my original post that I am not an anti vaxxer. I will take vaccines that are proven to be 100% safe. None of this BS “we can’t be sued” crap.

          15 mins is NOT 5 or 10 years. Heck it’s not even 1 year. The fact that you are still alive after 15 mins means nothing. If you are steadily exposed to low level radiation, you’ll still be alive after 15 mins too, but continue that for an extended period of time, and you’ll still end up with cancer.

        • Phil says:

          The first result in Google about your cancer claim stated it is a myth, false information.

        • Jdog says:

          I made no claim. I did not say the vaccine causes cancer, I said this type of gene manipulation mRNA “can” cause antigens that in turn affect immune response. This includes cancer. EVERY vaccine and drug has serious side effect for a certain percentage of the population. Data on what those side effects are, and how many people will be effected cannot be determined in 8 months, it takes years. There is no such thing as a safe choice in this scenario, there are only calculated risks.
          No one knows what the effects of this drug are going to be years down the road, and if they claim they do they are lying.

        • Turtle says:

          The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is traditional. Sure, it doesn’t work quite as good but I won’t even consider getting one of the mRNA vaccines until we see how people are doing in ten years.

          I don’t buy this talk about not having a choice between vaccines. It’s simple. Ask first and don’t consent if it’s mRNA. Didn’t Joe just order 100,000,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson?

    • Marshall says:

      The rest of the world seems headed for mandatory vaccination too. Let us know if you find somewhere with some sanity left.

  10. CCG says:

    I had round trip tickets to Barcelona for a long planned bike trip in May 2020. Norwegian offered me “miles” for the value of the trip + 10%, supposedly expiring in 1 year.

    Recently, I received an email saying that they no longer fly to the States, but they’d be happy to honor the miles for flights within the EU. Unlikely I can use them, so it seems some of these vouchers will end in donations to the airlines.

  11. 2banana says:

    Observations from the trenches.

    Corporate airline travel is dead. You need to convince a VP to sign off on business critical travel. The answer is always no.

    Military airline travel in on full bore. Civilian and Military flights.

    Personal airline travel is ramping up. And no real bargains flying international. And, oh, they pack you in like in pre-covid.

    • Turtle says:

      Just imagine how lousy the airline travel experience will be after taking this hit. It became rotten enough after 9/11 and now… I don’t plan on ever getting on an airplane again. Better to move home to San Diego where family and vacation are 24/7 already. The HCOL might be worth it.

  12. Mark says:

    When your government and the Fed lies to you about so much for so long (i.e. claiming 1% inflation and 4% unemployment , for example)- it’s not unreasonable to just think – “If their lips are moving, they’re lying”.

    • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

      I just cut the good news in half and double the bad news, whenever the govt. tells me something.

      But again….would you prefer anarchy?

  13. Bobber says:

    I am one of those people who canceled a flight last Fall and received flight credits. I already booked a flight next month utilizing the credits. The flight booking went smoothly, but I found out the rental car companies are taking advantage of the increased demand. The rental car prices at my destination are about 70% higher than they were immediately prior to the pandemic. I always use the same site (Expedia’s rentalcars.com) to book the rental car.

    Looks like people will be paying more for auto rentals. Not sure why. I thought they had an excess supply of automobiles as a result of the pandemic.

    • 2banana says:

      Wolf had several articles on the Hertz bankruptcy.

      About 500,000 cars taken out of the market.

      • Bobber says:

        I was watching the Hertz site for deals over the past year. No great deals ever came up. The prices stayed firmly within the Blue Book range as part of a “no haggle” policy.

        Maybe they were selling them in bulk to used car dealers for lower prices than what I could buy them for.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Bobber,

      “Looks like people will be paying more for auto rentals.”

      Yes, and not just rental cars. Companies, including rental fleets, airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc., have slashed capacity by a huge amount. So when demand picks up even a little, prices will jump. This is precisely where the services inflation will come from. We will start seeing the first signs of this crop up in CPI over the next few months.

      • RightNYer says:

        Yep. I suspect that restaurant eating is one of the few things where the “pent-up demand” meme has something to it. But with so many restaurants permanently closed, those that are left will have longer lines and higher prices.

      • rodocostarica says:

        I just rented from enterprise for 6 weeks rental off their website. Same price as last year and year before.

      • Great 👍 explanation, thank you!

      • Realist says:

        So, a nice family from Tennessee can fly to San Francisco and then will have to pay way more for a rental car to drive to the city before they get their luggage stolen, then have to pay forty dollars to park overnight at their chic Union Square hotel, the feces laden area now is renamed with official city light pole banners “The Transgender District.”

        No way tourism and conventions to San Francisco return to normal, at least until the city stops attracting America’s failed humans and drug addicts with billions of dollars in services.

        Suggest everyone read the Wikipedia bio pages of the city supervisors. Two of the nine are actually from the city, several others are…Well, go see for yourself.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Realist,

          Yes, that’s exactly how it is. I tell everyone, don’t come here, it’s terrible. Needles and feces are knee-deep, and dead bodies are strewn everywhere. And only idiots rent a car at the airport to drive to Union Square and park it there for five days, but hey, tell them that it’s terrible in San Francisco, and that they should visit Texas instead. Iowa is nice too. And Oklahoma. There are lots of great places to visit in the middle of the country. Just stay away from San Francisco. Would do us them a huge favor.

        • Turtle says:

          Since when do nice families from Tennessee visit San Francisco? You know churches in the South send missionaries there like it’s a third-world country. “And this summer we’re having mission trips to and The Dominican Republic, Zambia and San Francisco.”

          Of course that nice family in Tennessee isn’t going to vacation in Oklahoma or Iowa but South Carolina or Florida is more likely than the great city of San Francisco. Thoughts of California hardly enter the mind of folks between the Rockies and the Appalachians.

  14. Donna Walker says:

    I’m 67 and just got my 2nd shot. Booked 3 flights already for the next two months. Further out another 3. All of my friends who have had second shots are doing the same. Chart flights with % of population with second shots. Small now but will increase dramatically. I booked All domestic flights. Used to Travel extensively abroad, but don’t want the hassle of dealing with Covid restrictions now . Hopefully Interntional next year. This will come back sooner than you think. I quarantined for 13 months. 2nd dose is a game changer.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      This type of domestic leisure travel is only part of air travel. International leisure travel will be slower to come back, given the border restrictions. But leisure travel will come back. Business travel won’t.

      • Ted says:

        So, if I go to the British museum in London I might actually be able to get close enough to the Rosetta stone to see it? Last time I was there it was surrounded by fifty chinese school girls.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yes, and in Paris, you might actually be able to see and be disappointed by the Mona Lisa :-]

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Lucky you T,,, thanks for sharing that.
          Last time I was at that wonderful museum, 3rd day that month, there were at most 100 people in the whole place, and it was literally one of the most full of wonder experiences in my young life in drizzly late fall of 1970.

    • RightNYer says:

      I don’t doubt any of this (I’m 39, and my parents and their friends are similarly booking trips), but I suspect that socioeconomically, you and your friends are not representative of the population as a whole.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        C’mon rnyr,,, NOBODY is ”representative of the population as a whole.”
        However, we can hope that someday, bio individuality will become recognized at all levels of health maintenance and medical services.
        The ”one size fits all” model that seems not only to predominate but be the exclusive remedy or policy is ”so 20th Century” !!!
        Time and enough to at least begin to recognize that for some people some medicines/drugs, including illegal drugs, will actually produce exactly or approximately the very opposite of the desired results.
        ETC.

        • RightNYer says:

          I think you misunderstood my point. I meant that most people don’t have the money or time off from work to travel six times in a few months.

    • shandy says:

      Ms. Walker,
      My hat off to you and friends. Thank-you for telling us this. I hope others will find and acknowledge your insight and correct explanation.
      I take away from your response to this comment board discussion that receiving the “jab” is not about being courageous or scared but just doing the right thing for yourself and others.
      Happy travels and thank-you again!

  15. Cynical Engineer says:

    The rental fleets *did* have an excess of cars a year ago. They then cancelled their entire in-fleet purchases over the last twelve months, and aggressively de-fleeted cars at the same time. Both Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty and Avis-Budget have less than 50% as many cars as they did a year ago.

    Even in a normal year, the rental companies typically replace 20 to 30% of their cars, so all they did was to sell off 50% more cars than normal. Hertz used their bankruptcy to enable them to cut deeper into their fleet and I think they only have 1/3rd as many cars now.

    The advantage that the car rental companies have over the airlines is that they can add/remove capacity a whole lot easier/faster.

  16. ridgetop says:

    I had tickets to go to England last September with British Air. They were willing to give me credits for a year. But also offered to refund my money, so I got a full refund, no problems, no arguments. I won’t be rebooking this year, but when I do it will be with BA!

  17. DawnsEarlyLight says:

    Who quit flying? I have been able to fly four times as much, with these great rates!

  18. lenert says:

    Where’s unused ticket market?

  19. Olivier says:

    @Wolf Typo: fairs -> fares.

  20. JustTruth says:

    Will return to flying when the idiotic mask requirements are terminated by airlines and we are no longer subjected to PCR text and you must be vaccinated harassment. The airlines can fo F___K themselves.

  21. Mike T says:

    Just got back from FL. It’s booming down there, flights were full although airports were empty. But once folks are vaccinated it’s going to be roaring 20’s boom then a 30’s repeat with WW3 to close out the decade with China.

    • WES says:

      Mike:

      It is funny how everyone down in wide open Florida is so upbeat while the rest of the country seems downcast!
      My brother, from Detroit, has been working from home, since November, down in Florida!

      • tom18 says:

        Its called freedom. Release the prisoners to save them from covid,
        no social distancing at the border, jail the rest of America.

        Makes sense.

    • RightNYer says:

      The traffic down here in South Florida in the past month or two certainly bears this out!

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Nah MT for your last re war, but only because China will not be ready quite yet.
      If you read their official and unofficial news outlets regularly, they are very clear about that, while quite openly continuing their build up to prepare.
      Their army, and their cyber and bio war efforts certainly seem to be ready, but not the navy or air forces, yet.
      And USA military appears to be still fighting WW2.

  22. Avraam J. Dectis says:

    .
    I prefer to avoid airports and airplanes because I do not like being poisoned.
    Unless I have to cross an ocean, I will drive.
    If I have to fly it will be with a reputable non USA carrier.
    .

  23. Drunk Gambler says:

    AMAZON, FEDEX, UPS and DHL will fill the gap on unused aircraft.
    With e-comerce booming, they gonna need some extra cargo planes. AMAZON loading up on Boeing already. (they prefer used aircraft)
    Airlines will shrink, but still be profitable. (there is no alternative for planes). We probably won’t see any bankruptcies at all.
    Some money will be spend on airports, remodeling, more cargo space on terminal.

    • sunny129 says:

      Ever lingering COVID with new mutants on the way, won’t make that all happen, that easy! But dream on!

      3rd wave spike in Europe. Wait for ours in Summer!
      Brazil will remain the lab for all the new mutants sending to rest of the world

      “Brazil’s Catastrophic Management of COVID-19 Threatens the Entire World”
      nakedcapitalism

  24. Daniel says:

    @ WOLF

    The tricky part when it comes to AIR TRAVEL CREDITS is the following: You booked an international ticket for say $700 pre-covid which got cancelled. Now they gave you $700 of travel credit. But guess what – once international air travel resumes there ain’t tickets for $700 anymore. They are all going to cost $1000 or $1200, so you end up spending way more.

  25. Lawefa says:

    The flights aren’t coming back. Time for a restructured business model.

    • sparkylab says:

      This is unavoidable IMO. Business travel was the bread & butter of the industry, allowing everything else to function in its full-priced wake. I can’t see how the industry survives in anything like its pre-Covid form.

  26. CRV says:

    Supposedly a lot of people bought RV’s. Those will not go flying, will they?

  27. Anthony says:

    Just watched a video of a guy, who last week flew from London to California….14 people on the plane…..

  28. Winston says:

    This is the forever virus, just like the common cold:

    New lab study shows troubling signs that Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 shots could be far less effective against the variant first found in South Africa
    8 Mar 2021

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/pfizer-modernas-covid-19-shots-174512012.html

    The percentage of protective antibodies that neutralized the variant – called B.1.351, which has been recorded in 20 US states – was 12.4 fold lower for Moderna’s COVID-19 shot than against the original coronavirus, and 10.3 fold lower for Pfizer’s, the study authors said.

    • Phil says:

      There will be booster shots, just like with the flu. Perhaps they will eventually find a better way to future proof the vaccine.

      • sunny129 says:

        Phil

        Brazzlian mutants (P1 & such as the E484k mutation that evades antibodies) will be entirely different challenge! It took nearly 4 years to get a satisfactory/credible vaccine against MEASLES, not 6 months!

        3rd wave already in Europe and next wave in summer in USA! Long way to go before declaring victory!

        • Jdog says:

          The use of AstraZeneca vaccine has been partly or fully suspended in Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Bulgaria, Ireland, Italy, Thailand, South Africa, Iran, and Tanzania, due to adverse reactions and effect-ability problems.

    • cd says:

      or you have naturally immune folks who never need a vaccine because they took care of their body, antibodies naturally made that flu nothing but a pesky cold and now are immune forever. What about that huge % of people. They would be nuts to get vaccinated, any mandate would be unconstitutional

  29. Dave says:

    The other concern is the effect the reduced air travel has had on maintenance and crew readiness. If you mothball planes you also mothball maintenance crews and pilots.

    I know after extended time off I come back just a little rusty and slow

    • Marco says:

      Those mothballed maintenance crews can go back to tending the chickens and goats until needed.

      Airlines have shifted heavy maintenance work on their airplanes to repair shops in developing countries, where the mechanics who take the planes apart (completely) and put them back together (or almost) may not even be able to read or speak English. US Airways and Southwest fly planes to a maintenance facility in El Salvador. Delta sends planes to Mexico. United uses a shop in China.

      No thanks, prefer German technicians, so it’s Lufthansa for me.

  30. Keepcalmeverythingisfine says:

    I’ve flown a couple times domestically over the past year. Planes were maybe half full, airports not busy at all. I’m surprised more people were not taking domestic trips. International is a whole different can of worms. People will be flying and taking vacations again as soon as they can afford it. Perhaps a little uptick with the latest stimmies. Looks to be a slow upward trend in the travel industry rather than a sudden spike.

  31. ft says:

    Jdog, you did a better job expressing my sentiments than I could. I second your remarks. Boycotting air travel here since my last flight in Jan 2007.

  32. sunny129 says:

    ‘This pandemic for all intent and purpose is just about over’

    WOW!

    I hope you are right but once the restrictions are eased. it will spike again by summer, just like in Europe. Brazilian mutants are out in Europe (in small# compared to UK kind!)

  33. Swamp Creature says:

    After Air Fla Flight 90 which I missed being on by one week just by chance, I’ve stopped flying except for emergencies.

  34. Richard Martin says:

    Would you PLEASE stop using this ridiculous word ‘normalcy’ The word is ‘NORMALITY’, always was and always will be!

    ‘Normalcy’ is one of those absurd American inventions, utterly redundant and indicative of total lack of education. Like so mcuh else American, it is just STUPID!

    Thank you.

    • tom20 says:

      Ya der hey.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Merriman-Webster:

      Definition of normalcy:
      “the state or fact of being normal”

      Like, a return to normalcy after war…

    • Phil says:

      Historically, “normalcy” is the perfect word right now, especially taking into account its etymology. While we’re on the topic, I think we need to retire the UK spelling of “whinging.” The correct spelling is clearly “whining.”

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Richard Martin,

      Time for you to learn how to use a dictionary. Dictionaries are free online. Highly recommended. From my trusty 20-year-old digital Random House Webster’s unabridged dictionary — note the date the word was starting to show up in printed literature. And I highlighted the example that the dictionary gave, from decades ago, which nails it for the current situation:

      “Normalcy: the quality or condition of being normal, as the general economic, political, and social conditions of a nation; normality: After months of living in a state of tension, all yearned for a return to normalcy. [1855–60; NORMAL + -CY]”

  35. shandy says:

    Frontier Airlines filed for an IPO near a week ago. I’ll place a tiny move towards them. Might be wise to investigate the earlier attempt to go public?
    The budget carrier had a $225 million loss in 2020 on revenue of $1.25 billion.
    According to CNBC that and
    “ The company dropped plans for an IPO last summer after filing in 2017”.

  36. EcuadorExpat says:

    Unbelievable how a certain demographic of the world seems to see it as a casual right to get on a plane and spend thousands on vacations.

    This is a perspective from a country where perhaps half the population has never visited one of the three largest cities, much less flown halfway around the world just for a bicycle trip on a bike that probably cost twice their annual income. Americans have this awesome belief in their privilege. You may be earning 10-100 times more than a second or third world laborer, but do you work X times harder to earn it? Where exactly do you think your big earnings come from, when you produce absolutely nothing in the scheme of things.

    I predict his tremendous inequality in wealth is reaching an explosive level in the next 5 years.

  37. Ce says:

    The whole problem with human centric based economics is the positive gearing for everything. People talk about a “recovery” to previous airline figures where as I look at the blue skies in Europe and the quiet mornings as there are no planes and massively reduced pollution and its quite clear the normalcy is now. I dont think we should/or can return to previous industrial output. COVID is a lesson for all our survival, a lesson in not having as much as our greed would/could allow us. Its the madness in people who invent and gear their minds to positive everything, my God, what moron decided Bitcoin was actually worth something, its like Gold, a mildly useful commodity in manufacturing but as it has value as a token, half the planet is being ripped up for the bloody stuff. GDP = Global Death Pressure – Humans are so f****ked because they refuse to see past fear and insecurity!

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