Travelers are taking to the skies again, but the immediate future of air travel remains highly turbulent, according to OAG’s survey of 1,800-plus U.S. travelers in July and August. Domestic capacity in the U.S. is up 81% from June-August, compared to the same period last year. The increase is being fueled by strong consumer demand—70% of consumers surveyed by OAG have booked flights for the future.
While travelers’ willingness to fly is growing, concerns over the Delta variant, increased COVID transmission rates and vaccination preferences weigh heavily on the near and mid-term outlook. Most consumers surveyed by OAG reported being fully vaccinated. However, OAG found that only 15% of non-vaccinated individuals plan to get vaccinated before their next trip.
Many airlines and destinations are considering vaccine mandates to strengthen confidence and fight transmission of the coronavirus. A total of 68% of all survey respondents said they are interested in or want domestic vaccine passports, and 70% believe vaccine passports should be required for international travel. Of those that said they were not yet vaccinated, 56% said they still wouldn’t get vaccinated even if the airline, airport or destination required it to travel.
“Vaccine mandates are a polarizing issue,” said John Grant, senior analyst, OAG. “Many airlines, governments and destinations are actively considering mandating vaccines to fly or enter, and the majority of travelers support the use of vaccine passports. While this may add fuel to hot fire, the ongoing strength and resilience of the entire travel market is directly linked to higher vaccination levels and lower transmission rates.”
Other takeaways from OAG’s research:
- Continued COVID-19 concerns keep some travelers grounded. Of the 30% of respondents who haven’t booked flights yet, 40% are waiting for vaccination rates and regulations to improve and 30% are waiting for vaccine passports to be required.
- The business travel outlook remains cloudy. Only 62% of business travelers said their company is planning air travel in the next 12 months, while 38% said their company either has no plans (20%) or has not specified plans (18%).
- Holiday travel is expected to bounce back. The 2021 holiday travel season projects to be a lot stronger than 2020. Of the 38% of travelers surveyed by OAG that said they typically fly for the holidays, only 40% of this group did so in 2020. This year, the percentage of that group who do intend to fly more than doubled (85%). Planned capacity for Thanksgiving week tells a similar story, currently with 47% more domestic seats booked than last year.
- Booking behavior remains erratic. Nearly half of travelers surveyed are still booking on short notice (between two weeks to a month in advance), and half are booking between two to six-plus months out. A total of 88% expect ticket prices to rise in the next 12 months.