Pent-Up Travel Demand Means Pent-Up Planes

The pent-up demand for travel created by more than a year of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic crisis has led to a record number of flights being booked, particularly for summer.

That means if you had any designs on traveling by air and having an empty middle seat, or hoping that your entire family would be seated together, you might be out of luck.


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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

The numbers certainly are trending in that direction. While the airline industry isn’t back to where it was in 2019, the Transportation Security Administration has processed at least 1 million passengers a day, every day, since March 11 of this year.

In fact, Sunday, May 9, set a pandemic-era record with a little more than 1.7 million passengers being screened. Consider that on May 9 of 2020, the TSA screened just over 170,000 travelers.

A number of factors are playing into the rise in bookings. The aforementioned pent-up demand is certainly one of them. The dramatic, and continued, decrease in business travel is another. The public’s reticence in flying overseas to places where COVID-19 is still considered a ‘hot spot’ is leading to more domestic travel.

The success of the three vaccines now available to combat the disease has also contributed to a growing number of people feeling more confident about getting out and about and away.

And the federal government’s decision to extend the mandate on wearing a face mask on planes, trains and buses – and at airports, train stations and bus stations – to Sept. 13, 2021, certainly adds to the sense of safety for many travelers.

But even with airlines selling middle seats again, if you have any thoughts on traveling this summer you better make your plans now. The pendulum between supply and demand has definitely swung in favor of demand – there’s more of it and far fewer seats at much higher prices for the summer.

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Delta Air Lines orders 25 Airbus A321neo planes | News

Delta Air Lines has placed a firm order for 25 A321neo (New Engine Option) aircraft with Airbus.

This is in addition to Delta’s 2017 order of 100 A321neo aircraft.

These planes will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engines.

Additionally, Delta has accelerated delivery of two A350-900 aircraft as well as two A330-900neo aircraft.

“With our customers ready to reclaim the joy of travel, this agreement positions Delta for growth while accounting for the planned retirements of older narrow-body aircraft in our fleet, reducing our carbon footprint, increasing efficiency and elevating the customer experience,” said Mahendra Nair, Delta senior vice president – fleet strategy.

“We thank Airbus for their steadfast partnership during the pandemic and look forward to working with them as we take delivery of the A321neo as well as our accelerated A350 and A330-900neo deliveries.”

Overall, A320neo Family aircraft deliver per-seat fuel improvements of 20 per cent, along with additional range of up to 500 nautical miles or two metric tons of extra payload.

“We have managed the challenges of the last year together with our customers, and it is gratifying to be taking steps like this one towards the regrowth of our industry with our long-standing partner, Delta,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer.

First delivered in April 2017, the A321neo shares 95 per cent airframe commonality with the Airbus A320 family, facilitating seamless integration into existing single-aisle fleets.

This latest order from Delta Air Lines brings the A321neo’s total order since introduction to nearly 3,500, with more than 500 aircraft already in fleets around the world.

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Psaki: Biden, Harris don’t have to restrict nonessential travel because they use private planes

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are not required to restrict nonessential travel as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because they travel on private planes.

During the press briefing on Monday, Psaki was asked about the president’s travel amid the coronavirus pandemic and CDC guidelines that recommend against nonessential travel.


“I would say that the president travels, as does the vice president, on a private plane,” Psaki said. “That is the purview of every president and vice president throughout American history.”

Psaki said traveling on a private plane is “of course, different than traveling on a commercial flight and going to mass events.”

“As you know, we don’t – the president is not hosting rallies, nor is the the vice president,” Psaki said. “We take the role of  being models quite seriously.”

She added: “But, I think most Americans would recognize the difference.”

Psaki’s comments come as the CDC continues to urge Americans against nonessential travel, warning that it increases the chance of spreading COVID-19, even for those who have been vaccinated.

The U.S. in recent days surpassed 30 million cases of COVID-19, with the seven-day average of new cases around 60,000.

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Southwest Airlines orders 100 Boeing 737 Max planes | News

Boeing and Southwest Airlines have announced the carrier will continue to build its business around the 737 Max family – in what amounts to a huge endorsement of the troubled aircraft.

The low-cost carrier has placed a new order for 100 planes and 155 options across two models.

The deal comes after a multi-year fleet evaluation by Southwest and means that Boeing and its suppliers could build more than 600 new 737 Max jets for the airline through to 2031.

The plane has just returned to service after a grounding of nearly two years following fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Southwest had been exploring options to modernise the largest component of its fleet: the 737-700 that serves the airline’s needs for a 140-150 seat airplane.

With the new agreement, the airline reaffirmed the 737-7 as its preferred replacement and growth plane.

The jet will complement the 737-8, which serves Southwest’s needs for a 175-seat model.

“Southwest Airlines has been operating the Boeing 737 series for nearly 50 years, and the aircraft has made significant contributions to our unparalleled success.

“Today’s commitment to the 737 Max solidifies our continued appreciation for the aircraft and confirms our plans to offer the Boeing 737 series of aircraft to our employees and customers for years to come,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest chairman and chief executive.

“We are proud to continue our tradition of being the world’s largest operator of an all-Boeing fleet.”

The new purchase agreement takes Southwest’s order book to 200 737-7s and 180 737-8s, more than 30 of which have already been delivered.

Southwest will also have 270 options for either of the two models, taking the carrier’s direct-buy commitment to more than 600 airplanes.

The airline also plans additional 737 Max jets through third-party lessors.

“Southwest Airlines has long been a leader and bellwether for the airline industry and this order is a big vote of confidence for commercial air travel.

“As vaccine distribution continues to pick-up, people are returning to the skies and fuelling hopes for a full recovery and renewed growth across our industry,” said Stan Deal, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

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Thanksgiving travel: COVID-19 makes cars, planes high-risk

Determined to travel for Thanksgiving?

Doing so increases your risk of being exposed to the coronavirus and of possibly spreading it to others, experts warn. Nonetheless, millions of Americans are expected to take to the skies for the holiday. Although it marks a 48% decline from last year, AAA estimates that 2.4 million Americans will still travel by air for Thanksgiving. An additional 48 million people will travel by car, a 4% drop.

Health officials across the country are urging people to avoid nonessential travel.

“We’re actually recommending this Thanksgiving be a stay-at-home Thanksgiving,” said Barbara Ferrer, the L.A. County director of public health. “If you are going to travel, we do ask when you come back that you quarantine for 14 days.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom echoed that plea on Friday, urging Californians to not travel out of state and to quarantine if they do.

“Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website.

There’s reason to be concerned: Early this year in China, a large spike in travel around the Lunar New Year holiday accelerated the spread of the coronavirus throughout the country and beyond its borders.

Here in the U.S., coronavirus cases are rising significantly, at rates not seen previously in the pandemic. “The more cases at your destination, the more likely you are to get infected during travel and spread the virus to others when you return,” the CDC cautions.

Airports, train stations and rest stops are places where people are at risk of being exposed to the virus and it can be difficult to stay six feet away from others, as health experts strongly recommend. At airports, for example, travelers must wait in security lines and gather at gates before boarding their planes.

Once on a plane, where you sit matters. “There’s actually research on this, believe it or not: You want to sit at the window,” Dr. George Rutherford, epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco, said during a recent campus town hall. “And you want to sit as far away from the toilets as much as possible, which would minimize how often you’re near passengers walking past you…You want to be as far away from that action as possible.”

Rutherford also recommended choosing airlines that are not selling the middle seats in rows to increase distancing between passengers. “I think that’s important,” he said.

“Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes,” the CDC says. “However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and sitting within six feet of others, sometimes for hours, may increase your risk of getting COVID-19.”

If you find yourself needing to take a taxi or rideshare, the CDC recommends to avoid riding with unmasked drivers or passengers; avoid touching surfaces; don’t accept free water bottles; sit as far as possible from the driver; and ask the driver to improve ventilation by opening the windows or setting the air ventilation system on non-recirculation mode, the agency said.

Bay Area health officials took an even stronger stance about car travel, saying in a statement: “Don’t share vehicles with people you don’t live with. Vehicles are small enclosed spaces where COVID-19 can spread easily between people.

“If you must share a vehicle, try to ride with the same people each time, make sure everyone wears a face covering and open the windows to maximize outdoor air circulation as much as you can,” Bay Area health officials said in a joint statement.

Those taking public transit should avoid touching surfaces, travel during non-peak hours and stay at least six feet from other travelers whenever possible. “Stay out of crowded spaces when possible, especially at transit stations and stops,” the CDC says.

Rutherford also suggested that college students not return home for the holidays this winter. But if that’s not possible, he suggested having them get tested before they depart and tested again at home with about three days between tests.

“One single test is not going to do it. You got to get tested twice,” Rutherford said.

A single negative test is not proof that someone is not infected. If a person is tested shortly after becoming infected and before the virus has reproduced enough copies of itself, a test could fail to detect the virus and produce a false negative result.

At the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, campus officials voiced dismay at students swarming the football field to celebrate an upset victory over Clemson University. The university is now mandating that students get tested for the virus before returning home at the end of the semester and are threatening to tie up the students’ registration for the next semester if they don’t get tested before leaving the campus near South Bend, Ind.

“You may not leave the South Bend area until you receive the results of your exit test,” the campus said.

“Obviously, the preference is for people not to be flying home for the holidays — for students or for others — at this point in time,” said Ferrer, the L.A. County director of public health.

She said that some colleges are recommending that if students do return home for Thanksgiving, they stay home for the rest of the year and finish up the rest of the semester remotely online “so that you’re not really exposing lots more people when you come back … to finish out the semester.”

The L.A. County recommendation to quarantine for 14 days when returning from travel means staying at home as much as possible, and not leaving to go to the grocery store or to restaurants. Instead, people in quarantine should order food to be delivered, Ferrer said.

During quarantine, you can go out for a walk by yourself, said Ferrer, as long as you don’t come in contact with other people. “We don’t want you go to restaurants and sitting and eating outside. And we don’t want you going into retail establishments, either, when we’ve asked you to quarantine.”

“The tighter you can restrict your activities over those 14 days, the better off we all are,” Ferrer said.

Similarly, health officials in the Bay Area strongly recommend self-quarantining for 14 days after returning to the region if a traveler’s activities put them at higher risk for infection. That can include traveling on planes and other public transit where face masks were not worn at all times by everyone or being within six feet of people outside your nuclear family if anyone was not wearing a mask.

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