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Newark Liberty International Airport. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Most U.S.-based airlines are gearing up for strong growth — adding routes, hiring employees and ordering new aircraft — as the industry continues to recover from the pandemic slowdown.

The big picture: Airlines crippled by the health crisis generally weathered the shock better than after 9/11 because of the way federal assistance was structured, industry officials told the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

  • Aid was targeted to support employee payrolls, which enabled airlines to bounce back more quickly when travel demand returned.
  • "The Payroll Support Program saved the airline industry by providing a lifeline for its workers," American Airlines CEO Doug Parker testified, echoing remarks by other executives.

What's happening: Airlines are restoring routes, hiring more employees and ordering new, more fuel-efficient aircraft to prepare for strong growth in 2022 and beyond.

  • The industry has added 47,500 jobs since the pandemic low in November 2020, a 13% gain.
  • Low-cost domestic airlines — Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit and Jet Blue — are seeing the biggest bounce. Their scheduled seat capacity for the first quarter of 2022 is higher than the same period in 2019.
  • Larger airlines with international routes, including Delta and United, continue to lag 2019 capacity.

Yes, but: Domestic travel remains about 14% below pre-pandemic levels, and international travel is down 28%, according to trade group Airlines for America.

  • A full recovery will depend on the return of business travel, which the U.S. Travel Association projects will happen by 2024.
  • Average airfares remain well below 2019 levels: $225 in the second quarter, compared to $333 in 2019 (or $354 adjusted for inflation).

What to watch: Under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint, many airlines are replacing their fleets with more efficient planes that use less fuel.

Go deeper

American Airlines deal with Aer Lingus will make flying to Europe easier

Off to the Emerald Isle! Photo: Peter Muhly/AFP via Getty Images

Getting from North Texas to Ireland will be a little easier, thanks to an agreement between Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Dublin-based Aer Lingus.

Why it matters: The travel industry, which affects nearly every part of the economy in North Texas, is still recovering from the pandemic drop-off. And international travel has taken one of the biggest hits.

Updated 6 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker