Video source: YouTube, Face the Nation
United Airlines Inc (NYSE: UAL) announced Thursday plans to ramp up its December schedule to 3,500 domestic flights per day, the most its flown in the US since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
In anticipation of a strong holiday travel season, the Chicago-based carrier said it will boost its schedule on popular winter routes, particularly warm weather destinations and ski hot spots.
Overall, United said it will fly 91% of the schedule that it flew domestically in December 2019 — the last holiday season before the coronavirus outbreak upended the travel industry.
According to United, searches on its website and app for holiday flights are up 16% compared to two years ago.
“We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand in our data and are offering a December schedule that centers on the two things people want most for the holidays: warm sunshine and fresh snow,” said Ankit Gupta, vice president of network planning and scheduling at United.
“We know families and friends are eager to reunite this holiday season, which is why we're thrilled to add new flights that will help them connect and celebrate together."
After the passenger aviation industry was brought to a standstill for more than a year-and-a-half due to virus-related safety restrictions, US-based airlines are looking for a strong finish to 2021.
Besides capitalizing on domestic travel, airlines hope to benefit on pent-up demand for international travel as well. Last month, the White House announced that come November, it will lift the ban on most international travelers to the US as long as they can show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.
Over the summer, widespread vaccination efforts contributed to strong demand for travel, but that momentum was slowed down by the spread of the Delta variant. Airlines were optimistic that business travel would pick up after Labor Day, but many companies are still operating remotely.
During a recent appearance on CBS's Face The Nation, United’s chief executive officer Scott Kirby said he believes the industry will rebound by early 2022.
“The Delta variant has obviously caused a downturn in travel, but it's particularly business travel. A lot of offices were expecting to be open again in September, and the Delta variant has pushed those opening dates back a few months. My guess is it will now be January,” he said.
“It appears that we've peaked in cases. Let's hope that that's the case. Let's hope that as we continue to get more people vaccinated, we really can get back to normal across the country,” Kirby said.
Overall, air travel in September was about 75% of what it was during the same month in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Source: Equities News