We have been tracking US domestic traffic since the start of the pandemic. With another month in the rearview mirror, how are things looking? Please use the model below for lots of details – remember to click the double-headed arrow at the bottom right to maximize your viewing.
- Flight volumes are back at 2019 levels (Page 7)
- Passenger volume is up and grows steadily. But not to the extent of flight growth. Anecdotally, flights we’ve taken recently appear to be full with airlines offering passengers $400 to take a later flight.
- On page 2 note that passenger volume per flight is not yet at historic breakeven levels. Also, note that the US airline industry is different now than pre-pandemic, so historic breakeven may be higher than what the industry is at now.
- Page 3 demonstrates that passengers react to changes to pandemic waves. The recovery, though robust, can stall quickly – for example, if the “Delta” variant spreads.
Travel volumes appear to be following the pattern predicted by the “pent-up demand” predicted by many in the industry. But the recovery is not immune to exogenous shocks. The airlines are adding flights and we have even seen widebody aircraft in domestic service, which is unusual. In a way, it looks like the airlines are priming their networks for continued traffic growth. This is understandable as the airlines need to get their assets back to work – both people and equipment.
In summary, the situation looks promising. But it’s best the airlines stay flexible because, as we’ve seen, change can come overnight. We’re not out of this yet.