Pent-up travel demand could lead to headaches during the holidays


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Many more people plan to travel during the holidays this year than in previous years, according to a new PWC survey – But this pent-up demand will put a strain on airlines still trying to recover from last year, industry analysts warn.

Why is this important: As many airlines add flights to popular destinations, consumers will likely find higher prices and limited availability. Airlines could also face staff shortage on newly issued vaccination warrants.

In numbers : About a third of the population typically travel during vacations, most to visit family and friends, previous data from PWC has shown.

  • This was true even last year, when many travelers took to the road instead of flying.
  • This year, however, 52% of those surveyed said they plan to travel much more than the typical third. Most will travel by car (72%), although 57% of those with a household income over $ 150,000 said they plan to travel by plane.

They will also spend more to get there.

  • Vacation travel spending is expected to increase 69% in 2021 compared to 2020, per personal watercraft.
  • Even compared to the pre-pandemic 2019 period, average travel spending is expected to increase by 24%, from $ 372 to $ 461.

The trap : The demand for travel will likely exceed the supply of available aircraft seats and rental cars.

  • “Airlines can’t increase capacity fast enough,” said Jonathan Kletzel, head of airline and travel practice at PWC.
  • Unless you book your trip in advance, “there will literally be no places available to get to your destination,” he said.
  • A rental car shortage means you could pay the same amount to rent a Ford Fiesta from a rental company as you did to rent a guy’s Maserati on a ridesharing site like Turo.
  • There is even a luggage shortage.

What is happening: Some airlines are pushing to add more flights and bigger planes to keep up with the expected surge.

  • United Airlines said last week it would be on its busiest schedule since the pandemic began, adding flights in December to cities like Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., And ski resorts like Aspen, Colorado.
  • “We’re seeing strong pent-up demand in our data and come up with a December calendar focused on the two things people want most for the holidays: hot sun and fresh snow,” said Ankit Gupta, vice president of network planning. and planning at United.

Yes, but: With more than 3,500 daily flights, United’s December schedule is still only 91% of its domestic capacity compared to the pre-pandemic 2019.

  • American Airlines will announce its winter schedule soon, but told Axios it is adding larger planes and additional flights to the Caribbean, Mexico and South America to meet increased demand.

The bottom line: Brian Kelly, CEO of Guy Points travel website, says if you’re planning on traveling, don’t hang around.

  • Normally, prices fluctuate a bit, but those trends will be shifted this year, Kelly says. “Book early.”
  • “Use the (frequent flyer) points you have accumulated,” he adds. “It’s easier to get refunds if you book with points.”
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