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Looking Forward for Flying

Looking at Considerations for the Air Travel Industry

Just a year ago, across the world, airports were nearly completely empty. Now, the skipping of suitcase wheels and chaos of TSA checks is starting to return, but ongoing concerns of global vaccination and pandemic recovery and economic losses leave the state of the travel industry unclear. 

In order to best understand the future of the airline industry, it’s important to understand what’s happening right now. Based on data reported from NBC News, the total number of Americans flying everyday has been pushing towards a steady 1.1-1.5 million people daily around mid-April 2021. Although these numbers don’t mirror pre-pandemic levels, they do mark a significant increase from April of last year, reflecting how airlines are slowly returning to “normal”. Still, lower demand and COVID-19 concerns mean that airlines are selling fewer tickets at steeper discounts. 

However, new issues are also entering the radar of major airline companies that will affect the next year. 

First, one new airline policy is threatening the airlines’ relationships with customers that experience emotional distress. A recent decision from the Department of Transportation (DOT) revised the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), enacting a new rule regarding the transportation of emotional support animals by air that would treat emotional support animals as (fee-able) pets. Based on a new survey from VetNaturals, this controversial decision would compel 30% of all flyers to refuse to buy a plane ticket. 

Additionally, the issue of varying levels of vaccination and COVID-19 testing around the world will continue to be an issue for airlines to consider. While some best practices for airlines have been suggested including the requirement of a negative COVID-19 test or offering distanced seats, as COVID-19 continues to change, so must airline policies. 

Finally, the airline industry will have to adapt to a new world where transnational and international is less necessary. The digital revolution of the past year proved that Zoom meetings and virtual connection can be an at least acceptable substitute for costly business trips or family meetups. We may see a world where people are traveling less, meaning that airlines may have to adjust their supply of plane tickets. 

It will certainly be interesting to see how the future unfolds for airlines as we move into a new post-COVID-19 world.

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