American Airlines says ticket sales have hit 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels and that new bookings via the AA website are up between 150 and 500 percent on last year. The news comes as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported a new pandemic record for the number of air travellers screened at airports in a single day as more than 1.57 million passengers passed through airports on Sunday.
Last week, American Airlines reported an average load factor on its domestic flights of nearly 80 percent as travelers feel more confident to return to the skies. Many international services, especially to Europe and beyond, however, are dragging down network-wide load factors as travel restrictions continue to weigh down the aviation industry.
Nonetheless, American has witnessed such a turnaround in its domestic fortunes that it plans to unground its entire fleet by May at the latest. The Dallas Fort Worth-based airline grounded hundreds of planes at the start of the pandemic and the most optimistic of predictions suggested aircraft could remain in deep storage for years.
The recovery is mainly being driven by a highly successful mass vaccination drive that has already seen over 145 million vaccine doses administered since the campaign got underway in December according to CDC data.
Low fares are also helping to drive new bookings, especially amongst low yield leisure travelers who are ignoring current CDC guidance to delay travel. The CDC guidance applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status although the agency has come under pressure to lift its current stance on travel.
CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky, however, hit back at the agency’s critics on Monday during a White House coronavirus press briefing. Her voice breaking, Dr Walensky said she feared “impending doom” as COVID-19 cases begin to rise again across the United States.
“I know that travel is up and I just worry that we will see the surges that we saw over the summer and over the winter again,” Dr Walensky continued.
Speaking not as the CDC Director but “as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter”, Dr Walensky urged Americans to “hold on a little longer” as the vaccination campaign continued at pace.
The U.S. aviation industry and travel firms have pressured the Biden administration to ease international travel restrictions and lift the current ‘avoid travel’ guidance. Airlines, including American, have asked the White House to set out a roadmap for reopening travel by May at the latest.
Rumors abound that President Biden could lift travel bans on Europe, the UK and Brazil by mid-May. The administration has declined to comment on the speculation.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.