US airlines say COVID-19 variants aren't hurting bookings

Photo Date: Jun 21, 2021 | Credit: CBS Denver

Airlines say the current rise in new cases of coronavirus aren't scaring away travelers. United Airlines said Wednesday that bookings are rising and it has seen no slowdown because of the fast-spreading delta variant of COVID-19.

Posted: Jul 21, 2021 1:58 PM

Rising concern about the fast-spreading delta variant of COVID-19 is creating turbulence for the stocks of big travel companies, but airline executives say they don’t see any slowdown in ticket sales, maybe because a high percentage of their best customers are fully vaccinated.

“We haven't seen any impact at all on bookings, which continue to just get stronger and stronger every week,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Wednesday.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said the same thing last week, although he added that variants were continuing to hobble international travel by delaying the opening of borders.

More than 2 million people a day, mostly summer vacationers, are packing U.S. airports. That is a turnaround from the lockdown summer of 2020.

The travel recovery took hold earlier this year as vaccinations rose and infection cases fell. Now variants are fueling a tripling in new reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. over the past two weeks — although just a fraction of the January peak — and driving outbreaks in other countries.

Earlier in the pandemic, airlines saw that bad headlines about the virus would prompt large numbers of people to cancel trips. For much of 2020, cancellations outpaced ticket sales. Americans seem less skittish about the variants now that many of them are vaccinated, airline executives say.

United said its cancellation rate has not changed in the last few weeks, although it remains higher than before the pandemic. It could be due to the millions of Americans — particularly those who travel — who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

About 57% of Americans who are old enough for the shots are fully vaccinated, according to government figures. United said that 84% of the members of its frequent-flyer program are vaccinated.

Even if travelers are unmoved by the headlines, investors have been spooked. They worry that the rise of variants could lead governments to reimpose travel restrictions that might short-circuit the travel recovery.

Airline officials are lobbying the Biden administration to lift restrictions that prevent most Europeans from entering the United States, but the limits imposed in March 2020 remain in place. They note that many European countries have eased border restrictions, leading to a surge in bookings by American vacationers this summer.

“We are working closely with the government, and it’s a two-way conversation where they are getting input from us, input for them,” Kirby said on a call with analysts and reporters. “All of us want to make sure we do this safely.”

Kirby said the industry has shown willingness to accept vaccination requirements, as many other countries require of visitors from the U.S. and other places.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday — without providing many details — that discussions with other countries are continuing. She saw no contradiction in European countries welcoming Americans while the U.S. continues to bar most non-U.S. citizens traveling from Europe.

“We give American citizens guidelines. They make their own decisions about whether they travel to certain countries around the world," she said. “Any decisions about reopening international travel (to the U.S.) will be guided by our own public health and medical experts."

In afternoon trading Wednesday, shares of American Airlines rose 4%, United and Southwest climbed about 3%, and Delta gained 2%. Cruise line and hotel stocks were also up.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 819597

Reported Deaths: 15406
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147901924
Mobile725791338
Madison52306697
Shelby37597350
Baldwin37245552
Tuscaloosa35101612
Montgomery34106740
Lee23526246
Calhoun22225488
Morgan20941378
Etowah19825500
Marshall18361304
Houston17384412
St. Clair16054339
Cullman15443293
Limestone15343199
Elmore15241286
Lauderdale14302295
Talladega13836283
DeKalb12649261
Walker11202370
Blount10192176
Autauga10043148
Jackson9871184
Coffee9210191
Dale8897185
Colbert8860201
Tallapoosa7084198
Escambia6772134
Covington6712183
Chilton6641162
Russell636659
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion5005127
Dallas4973200
Pike4795106
Clarke475584
Geneva4571127
Winston4516103
Lawrence4321117
Bibb425186
Barbour357776
Marengo338090
Monroe331464
Randolph329764
Butler326396
Pickens316284
Henry312666
Hale311388
Cherokee302860
Fayette292880
Washington251551
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245275
Clay243368
Macon234663
Lamar224147
Conecuh186153
Coosa180240
Lowndes175164
Wilcox168839
Bullock151644
Perry138840
Sumter133038
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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Clear cool and dry to begin your weekend, but both afternoons should be a little bit above what we expect for this time of year temperature wise. Rain chances begin to return late Sunday night, with at least two chances for storms over the next week, summer could be strong.
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