Airlines in the United States and around the world have recently signaled that travel restrictions and new COVID-19 concerns could disrupt the airline industry’s recovery. Airlines like Emirates and easyJet have already stated that they are concerned that a major hit the the airlines during the winter holiday months could cause great issues for the airline industry globally.
December is one of the busiest months of travel in the United States and around the world. Previously, before the Omicron variant of coronavirus was revealed, economists forecasted that airlines would have a good holiday traveling season. Airports and airlines both have been preparing for mass travel, as it is expected that more people will travel this year than they did last year, when the pandemic was still regulating and restricting how people could travel around the United States and the world.
The Omicron variant was first reported in southern Africa a week ago. Already, many countries, including the United States, have imposed travel restrictions to and from southern African states that have confirmed Omicron cases. While there are currently no Omicron cases in the United States, this could change in the coming weeks. Canada has already announced Omicron cases, as have other European and Asian countries.
As a result of these travel restrictions being put back in place to some degree, airline bosses are worried that restrictions will once again hamper how people are able to travel internationally during the pandemic. The United States government only recently took away all travel restrictions and regulations in November. Previously, there were many regulations in place to try to stop the spread of COVID-19. As a result, these restrictions also tended to slow down airline activity.
Restrictions may not be the only thing that airlines need to worry about. Worries over COVID-19 could cause people to decide not to travel, or cancel their bookings, especially if cases grow rapidly around the country and the world. Earlier this year, we saw this happen with the Delta variant. As more Americans became vaccinated and started flying, the Delta variant arrived and increased cases. Quickly after this became public knowledge, airlines announced that they had experienced booking cancellations and a slowing of bookings.
If the worry over Omicron continues, then Americans could choose to stay home and not travel — which could then hurt the airlines during their peak holiday season.
Airlines have struggled since the pandemic first began in 2020 and still hasn’t officially recovered from the losses they experienced in the past almost two years. However, recovery was in sight until Omicron became an issue. Many airlines worked to ensure they had enough staff to properly run operations during the very busy peak holiday weeks, as certain airlines struggled earlier this year with labor shortages and bad weather. As these airlines want to ensure that they don’t have to cancel a lot of flights, they had to make sure they hired enough workers.
However, now that the Omicron variant could keep people from traveling as freely as they may wish, their holiday peak season may not be as beneficial as many had hoped.