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Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart Axios Visuals

Airfares are edging lower as international travel is increasingly being discouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The Delta variant of COVID-19, is casting a shadow over the economic recovery. A dip in airfares that had been surging could be a signal that consumers may pull back in the months to come.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, Southwest Airlines announced bookings have decelerated and cancellations have picked up this month, which it said "are believed to be driven by the recent rise in COVID-19 cases associated with the Delta variant."

State of play: While airplane tickets represent a relatively small component of what most Americans spend on, it’s been among the categories seeing the largest increases in recent months.

  • That's because prices were unusually depressed a year ago. And supply has lagged demand as the economy reopened.

By the numbers: Airfares fell 0.1% month over month in July, according to the Consumer Price Index report out Wednesday.

  • This comes after a 2.7% jump in June and a 7% surge in May.
  • For context, prices are up 19% from July 2020 levels.

What they’re saying: "The recent degree of strength was unlikely to continue indefinitely, and today's report suggests the slowing may be happening a bit quicker than expected," TD Securities chief U.S. macro strategist Jim O’Sullivan tells Axios.

Yes, but: Edgerton also points out that airline fares are still about 10% below pre-pandemic levels.

  • As such, prices are likely to climb again, but at a more moderate pace, Oxford Economics chief U.S. financial economist Kathy Bostjancic tells Axios.

What to watch: It will be interesting to see if the Delta variant affects tourism-driven local economies and other parts of the travel industry, such as lodging, where prices spiked 6.8% in July.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 21, 2021 - Health

COVID rapid tests face holiday demand spike

Medical professional performs COVID-19 test using the Abbot BinaxNOW rapid test in December 2020 in Livingston, Montana. Photo: William Campbell/Getty Images

As many Americans prepare to travel and see loved ones ahead of Thanksgiving, developers and sellers of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests say they are prepared to meet an expected spike in demand for their products.

The big picture: The U.S. has been slower to embrace rapid at-home COVID-19 testing than Europe as regulatory hurdles helped make the tests scarce and overpriced. But the Biden administration has recently allocated billions of dollars to buy millions of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to increase supply.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Nov 19, 2021 - Health

We're still not taking the pandemic seriously

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

20 months after pandemic lockdowns first began in the U.S., government institutions and the public are still struggling to manage COVID-19 as the emergency it is.

Why it matters: Past crises, from the Great Depression to 9/11, led to lasting changes in American society and governance. But institutional inflexibility has left us at risk of further COVID waves and disruption and unprepared for the inevitable next pandemic.

Nov 19, 2021 - Health

FDA endorses Pfizer, Moderna COVID boosters for all adults

A health care worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine at a senior living facility in Worcester, Pa., in August. Photo: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for anyone 18 and older.

Why it matter: The move could dramatically increase the number of Americans who are eligible to receive a booster by tens of millions.