Aviation expert Alex Martinez Rivera analyzes the odd relationship between the positive upswing of US airline passengers versus the fact that the COVID–counts are going up. He is also questioning whether or not we have reached the the peak of flying while the COVID-pandemic is still creating a serious dilemma for the airlines:
The US airline passenger count continues to regain its lost terrain. At the same time, COVID cases continue to rise! Have we reached the peak of passenger counts until the vaccine can be had?
Airline passengers flying versus COVID-19 counts
US airlines are starting to receive notices of downsizing, the 737 MAX is on track to return to flying, and passenger counts continue to climb.
If it weren’t because of COVID-19, I would say that the statement was an oxymoronic one as higher passenger counts account for a more stable industry.
But, during the”heap” of this unusual travel season, the tea leaves are going in the wrong direction.
Unusual Travel Season
This travel season, the country’s reactions to the COVID crisis are as varied as the rainbow. Asia and Europe took their time on closing their airspace with good reasons. The US, however, first closed overseas traffic from Asia only to a handful of airports.
As explorers and travelers learned, there are many infinite combinations to get out of Europe to the US. Unless you were in a European hotspot, traveling still wasn’t such a worry. Flyers could easily move around these hot spots.
It required more stopovers, but it wasn’t a reality until Italy fell in a long line of dominos.
However, maintaining the link became the Achilles heel for the aviation industry in the US, especially to Europe.
Passenger counts decreased to close to 85,000 passengers at one time, and airports became ghost facilities. The counts are now up to 600,000.
Asia and Europe open while the US isn’t able to access any destinations yet
Diplomats around the world are scratching their heads on what course the U.S. is taking. Many countries decided to continue their plans of reopening without Americans in mind.
In Pre-COVID times having a US passport meant access to the most significant countries in the world. The US passport is now a liability for many. Even some jurisdictions within the US have become a liability for travelers. Many are asking the FAA to restrict flights from areas of a high percentage of infection.
If we as a society can’t travel, the question becomes, when are we going to hit the wall?
Has the United States seen its apex (peak) in passenger numbers?
Even though it becomes a complicated question, I can safely say yes, although short term we are going to see higher numbers.
Let’s remember that many jurisdictions have canceled the 4th of July fireworks by trying to avoid a multitude of people gathering. The psychology of people is to “forget” what happened, so “let’s enjoy life a bit.”
That overconfidence becomes our downfall as Master Yoda would say. This is a zero-sum game, if followed, takes us out of contention to travel in Europe and Asia.
Most of South America still have their airports closed. Where could US tourists run?
I’m closely watching the Caribbean. Depending on what happens there, since there hasn’t been a US ban there, higher COVID-cases could exist. Places like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and USVI are places to watch.
A shortened season for the Caribbean?
Depending on what happens with the Caribbean, it can become a shortened travel season, even though the Centers for Disease Prevention says that the sun is the best anti-microbe treatment. A multitude of people present in a delayed spring break-setting can be a deadly combination.
Also, the second wave could come in October to the northern half of the US if the temperatures fall as suspected.
There are indications that the Southern Hemisphere is now running its course.
If the vaccine is delayed that would give serious doubt to returning to daily life. It would place everything on hold until next year, making life difficult for airlines and other industries and life in general.
Boeing 737 MAX return
If the re-certification of the 737 MAX occurs there would be more assets than passengers flying creating an excess supply of epic proportions.
Without pilots certified and taking early retirement bringing the MAX to active duty would be the greatest comeback for Boeing but the greatest setback for the airlines.
It can become a bumpy ride for the rest of the year
If any of these elements materialized or a combination of those, then I’ll expect the 4th quarter or the 1st quarter of next year on the backdrop of this year 2nd second quarter for the airlines
I can see having the airlines to ask for a second loan to Congress. This despite furloughs, early retirements, government guarantees, and provisions to maintain a certain number of employees. Certainly a gamble for the airline industry.
It all hinges on temperature, health safety, and economic footing. It’s a high bar for the airlines compared to having a passenger aircraft takeoff at 30-35 degrees when typically it is 15 degrees.
Do you agree on the well-researched points about how airline passengers and COVID-counts both play a direct role in how air travel is being affected by the coronavirus? You can contact investigative aviation journalist Alex Martinez Rivera directly here.
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