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Axios' Joann Muller and United CEO Scott Kirby. Photo: Axios

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes that people will feel safe traveling again by this time next year, depending on the pace of vaccinations and the government's ongoing response to the pandemic, he said at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: Misery for global aviation is likely to continue and hold back a broader economic recovery if nothing changes, especially with new restrictions on international border crossings. U.S. airlines carried about 60% fewer passengers in 2020 compared with 2019.

What he's saying: "You know, I have real confidence in the long term that by this time next year we'll be back towards a world where people feel safe traveling again. And while COVID may not be completely in the rearview mirror, that all the safety protocols that we have, mean people are back comfortable flying again," he said.

  • "And importantly, we need to reach a final scientific medical conclusion that once you've been vaccinated, it's safe for you to be out and behaving normally."
  • "As long as we're still wearing masks and socially distancing, the business is not going to come back," Kirby said, adding that he believes a "large pent-up demand for travel" will emerge once safety isn't a concern.

Watch the full event here.

Go deeper

Feb 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

In photos: Congress holds moment of silence for coronavirus victims

Congressional leadership outside of the Capitol on Feb. 23. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress held a candlelight vigil on the steps on the U.S. Capitol Tuesday evening in honor of the Americans who have died from the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The U.S. death toll from the virus passed 500,000 on Monday, just one year after the country's first COVID-19 death was confirmed.

2 hours ago - Health

Biden gets COVID-19 booster shot on live television

President Biden received a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine booster shot on live television on Monday, while also urging Americans to get vaccinated.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended Pfizer booster shots for millions of people, including those 65 years and older and individuals at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

John Hinckley, who shot Reagan, wins unconditional release

John Hinckley Jr. sitting on the back seat of a car in 1981. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

A federal judge on Monday approved the unconditional release of John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate former President Reagan in 1981.

State of play: U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman in Washington ruled that Hinckley can be freed from all court supervision in 2022 if he remains mentally stable and continues to follow rules that were imposed on him after he was released from a Washington mental health facility in 2016 to live in Virginia, AP reports.

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