Sep 20, 2021 - Economy

Delta variant fears curb fall flying

Travelers in the Miami International Airport. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Travelers in the Miami International Airport. Photo: by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Continued worries about the Delta variant are derailing fall travel plans.

Driving the news: Thanksgiving domestic flight bookings in August were 18% lower this year compared with 2019, according to a new Adobe Digital Economy Index report out Monday morning.

Why it matters: Spring hopes that air travel would pick up later in the year, providing much-needed relief to a battered industry, have been dashed.

The big picture: Domestic flight demand is still far off pre-pandemic levels.

  • Online bookings last month reached $4 billion, a decline of 35% from pre-pandemic levels in August 2019 and 24% from this July.
  • Year-to-date through August, total domestic bookings represent $38 billion, down 30% from the same time period in 2019.

What they’re saying: When flight bookings for November and December were up 9% and 17% in March versus March 2019, it was a promising signal, says Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights.

  • But consumers became more cautious as the Delta variant spread. The bulk of bookings happens three to four months before peak periods, so August is beginning to show a better picture of what the rest of the year might look like, Pandya adds. 

The bottom line: The economy’s recovery has been uneven and is still dependent on solving the health crisis. 

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