Air travel declined in August amid delta variant fears

Air travel declined in August amid delta variant fears
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Flight bookings shrank last month amid a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.

Through the first three weeks of August, online customers spent $2.9 billion on U.S. flights, down 33 percent from the same period in 2019, according to an analysis from Adobe Digital Insights.

It’s the second straight month of declining flight bookings. Travelers spent around $5.3 billion in July, a 13 percent drop from June, when air travel neared pre-pandemic levels.  

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“Domestic flight bookings in August thus far show that U.S. consumers are taking the delta variant seriously and once again shifting their travel plans,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights.

Figures from the Transportation Security Administration tell a similar story. The agency screened fewer than 1.5 million travelers on Aug. 24, the lowest single-day total in months. 

The data presents a grim reality for the hard-hit airline industry, which believed it was on the road to recovery in June as flights ticked up. 

COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations saw a sharp increase over the last two weeks, and the pandemic hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciIt's time for Fauci to go — but don't expect it to happen The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Budget negotiators: 72 hours and counting CDC director urges Americans to go outside, 'enjoy your trick-or-treating' MORE, the chief medical adviser to President BidenJoe BidenBiden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day Business lobby calls for administration to 'pump the brakes' on vaccine mandate Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Afghanistan reckoning shows no signs of stopping MORE, warned Sunday that low vaccination rates could lead to 100,000 new COVID-19-related deaths by December.

Last week, Delta Air Lines required unvaccinated employees to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and pay a $200 monthly surcharge for health care. Earlier this month, United Airlines implemented a vaccine mandate for all of its U.S. employees.

Continued cancellations and delays may have also impacted U.S. air travel. Spirit Airlines canceled more than 2,800 flights in early August amid system outages, poor weather and staffing shortages. Airlines have struggled to find enough workers to meet demand. 

Congress provided $54 billion in government aid to airlines to help them keep employees on the payroll. That assistance runs out on Sept. 30.