Will Rising COVID-19 Cases Halt The US Aviation Sector’s Recovery?

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Several carriers based in the United States have recently announced flight resumptions over the last few weeks. However, with the country going through a spike of new coronavirus cases in recent days, could the airlines’ return to action be affected?

American and Delta Planes at LAX
US airlines are continuing to work hard to tackle impact of COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

Back in action

Since the end of April, there was a steady decrease in new cases per day within the US. However, since the middle of June, incidents have been on the rise again. There have been approximately 40,000 new cases a day reported across the nation over the last week.

Despite the rise in numbers, airlines are busy preparing to relaunch several suspended flights. For instance, today, United Airlines shared that it is adding 25,000 flights to its August schedule. Altogether, this move triples the number of trips that the operator performed last month.

Moreover, next week, the Chicago-based carrier will return to China with a service to Shanghai twice a week. There will also be resumptions in services for Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

United isn’t the only airline ramping up its schedule this summer, with the likes of Delta resuming key operations. Notably, the Atlanta-based carrier already returned to China at the end of June.

Delta Air Lines
Despite the resumptions, the likes of Delta still have several of their aircraft on the ground. Photo: Getty Images

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On the rise

The worst of the impact, when it comes to passenger numbers, seems to be over. In the middle of April, there were two days in a row where United had less than 10,000 passengers. However, businesses started to slowly pick up at the end of May, with around 50,000 passengers being served. These figures means that there was a 400 percent increase in demand.

Since then, traveler numbers are continuing to rise, and suspensions continue to be lifted. The rising cases could have an impact on routes across the country, but it is unlikely that the damage will be the same as it was in March and April.

Several states are reintroducing some lockdown measures to help curb the spread. With some regions pausing their reopening process, there could be a drop in passenger numbers in certain areas.

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However, the aviation industry is now much better equipped to serve customers during the pandemic. Every major airline has introduced robust hygiene measures to help ensure the safety of its passengers and crew throughout their operations.

United Airlines Aircraft at Newark Liberty International
New York was one of the first cities to be majorly impacted by the virus. Photo: Getty Images

Well prepared

Of the many initiatives in place, compulsory wearing of face masks, the use of HEPA air filters, airport distancing procedures, and electrostatic spraying will all help combat the spread of the virus while traveling.

It’s not just airlines that have scaled up their policies. Airports and local authorities are also doing their bit to curb the spread between the country. Yesterday, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport opened the US’ first airport-based COVID-19 testing facility.

Additionally, passengers arriving at Albany International Airport will have to fill in forms to determine their risk status. The survey will assess the potential need to quarantine.

Electrostatic Delta
There is extra effort to ensure aircraft are clean amid the current climate. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Weathering the storm

Nonetheless, the recovery process might be slower than many carriers initially thought. The significant amount of daily cases may delay plans to reinstate European services, with the US still reluctant to allow in tourists from across the pond.

Regardless, operators have been preparing for the worst-case scenario when it comes to demand. Companies such as United have been cautious since the beginning and have a plan even if activity is minimal for the rest of the year. Therefore, if the situation is dire for a little longer, the work that these airlines have put in to cover costs while ensuring safe operations should be enough to tide them over until fall.

What are your thoughts about the US aviation industry returning? Will they continue to have their flights impacted by the virus? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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