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: 350070

Reported Deaths: 7590
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds24512449
DeSoto23513283
Harrison21172335
Rankin15798293
Jackson15735254
Madison11171227
Lee10903180
Jones9223169
Forrest9027163
Lauderdale8087244
Lamar724890
Lowndes7199152
Lafayette6631125
Washington5661140
Pearl River5357154
Oktibbeha503198
Bolivar5004134
Warren4817128
Panola4812112
Marshall4739106
Pontotoc452473
Hancock440388
Neshoba4401181
Union438979
Monroe4369138
Lincoln4228116
Pike3739114
Leflore3676125
Alcorn355374
Tate354988
Sunflower351094
Adams347490
Scott346677
Yazoo342977
Copiah330869
Simpson327191
Itawamba317281
Coahoma315685
Tippah312869
Prentiss302563
Covington302384
Marion289882
Leake288676
Wayne280945
George277351
Grenada272188
Newton266864
Tishomingo240770
Winston238084
Stone235338
Jasper234748
Attala228674
Chickasaw221460
Holmes202574
Clay201954
Clarke189580
Tallahatchie185642
Calhoun183232
Smith183036
Yalobusha173641
Walthall150449
Lawrence145426
Greene141935
Amite139144
Noxubee137235
Perry136138
Montgomery133944
Carroll127031
Webster124332
Jefferson Davis119834
Tunica116127
Benton107825
Claiborne105931
Kemper104429
Humphreys102333
Franklin88424
Quitman86319
Choctaw83119
Wilkinson79332
Jefferson72228
Sharkey51918
Issaquena1746
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 592417

Reported Deaths: 11542
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson861091591
Mobile49771865
Madison37714533
Shelby27501259
Tuscaloosa27344465
Montgomery26343628
Baldwin25860329
Lee17336181
Calhoun15498334
Morgan15225291
Etowah15060370
Marshall13198236
Houston12191293
Elmore10977219
St. Clair10852252
Limestone10816158
Cullman10610206
Lauderdale10305254
DeKalb9594192
Talladega9005188
Walker7840288
Autauga7615114
Jackson7431117
Blount7417139
Colbert6752142
Coffee6443132
Dale5723117
Russell482243
Chilton4810117
Covington4804125
Franklin462781
Tallapoosa4571156
Escambia451083
Chambers3987125
Dallas3751163
Clarke372263
Marion3470107
Pike334079
Lawrence3277100
Winston300773
Bibb292865
Geneva288383
Marengo262967
Barbour253761
Pickens247762
Butler242472
Hale236778
Fayette228165
Henry216545
Monroe204541
Randolph202844
Cherokee200748
Washington186839
Macon171552
Crenshaw170658
Clay167159
Cleburne161845
Lamar151938
Lowndes146255
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh122132
Coosa119529
Perry111228
Sumter110633
Greene99337
Choctaw64425
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Columbus
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Oxford
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Wednesday starts off in the nice middle 60s, even some towns down into the lower 60s. We will stay with plenty of sunshine as we go through the day. Most of our high temperatures on Wednesday will be well into the 80s to near 90 degrees in the afternoon.
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