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Airlines see uptick in summer bookings. Will it last?

May 20, 2020
4 min read
Airlines see uptick in summer bookings. Will it last?
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Are Americans ready to take to the skies this summer? Airlines are seeing an uptick in bookings that could be a sign of improving confidence among travelers eager to get out again and take advantage of some the most-flexible airline change-fee policies in a generation.

On Tuesday, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines all reported slightly more passengers on flights, an improvement over guidance from as recently as two weeks ago.

“We have seen a little bit of a bounce off the bottom but my caution is to not draw too much in the way of conclusions," Delta chief financial officer Paul Jacobson said at the Wolfe Research Conference on May 19.

Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.

The Transportation Security Administration saw its busiest day since the COVID-19 crisis began on Sunday, May 17. It screened nearly 254,000 people, including both travelers and airline staff, or nearly 10% of the total a year ago.

That improvement is still dominated by essential travelers. But, at least according to airline executives, does include modest increases in the number of people heading to Florida and other leisure destinations.

Delta is seeing this with its uptick in bookings primarily for flights to beach destinations, as well as activity "out west," said Jacobson.

Related: Coronavirus: What to expect when flying into the United States

The Atlanta-based carrier has added a hundred flights to its schedule in June to keep up with demand — and to allow for social distancing onboard planes. Delta plans to add several hundred more flights to its schedule in July to keep pace with the increased bookings.

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The catch, however, is that Delta still offers travelers the peace of mind to cancel flights at no charge. Jacobson said the airline still needs to "be careful" that new bookings actually turn into trips flown.

Delta was not alone in seeing an uptick.

“We’re seeing some modest improvements,” American Airlines president Robert Isom said at the Wolfe conference. “It’s a long way to go, but modest improvements [are happening]."

Related: American Airlines ‘not going away’ because of the coronavirus crisis

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier will fly roughly 33% of the schedule it flew a year ago in June, according to Cirium schedule data. This includes plans to resume more international routes, including to key destinations in Europe and South America.

United plans to resume flying about a quarter of its schedule in July after cutting around 90% of operations in May and June, it said in a securities filing on May 19.

Speaking at the Wolfe conference, the Chicago-based carrier's commercial chief Andrew Nocella said cancellations appear to have stabilized at a "reasonable" level and new domestic bookings beginning to inch into positive territory. International travel, however, remains depressed with cargo driving the resumption of select long-haul routes.

Related: ‘Brutally honest’ Scott Kirby takes over as new United Airlines CEO

And Southwest said in a securities filing on May 19 that its flights could be a third full in May, something that would give it a 20-point improvement from its guidance from April. Flights could be even fuller in June if the trend continues.

Altogether, the improvements reported by the four carriers suggests Americans are ready to begin traveling again. This comes even with requirements that passengers wear masks onboard flights and mixed results in keeping passengers socially distanced on flights.

Longer-term, major destinations like Disney World and Hawaii will need to reopen — and people feel safe to visit — before travel picks up in a significant way. Neither Disney nor the state of Hawaii have indicated when they will welcome visitors again.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Featured image by Getty Images

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023