US Domestic Flying Surges: 2019 Levels Almost Hit

As we head towards the summer, bookings for domestic travel in the US are experiencing a promising surge. Following a difficult summer last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, this time round looks set to herald promising signs of a recovery for US commercial aviation. Indeed, recent data has shown that booking levels in the country are close to those of 2019.

American JetBlue
Domestic bookings in the US are more than twice as high as 2020. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Crunching the numbers

Two days ago, IATA‘s ‘Economics Chart of the Week’ revealed signs of a summer recovery for US domestic travel in the coming months. The company, whose full name is the International Air Transport Association, took the opportunity to reveal data showing booking levels for international and domestic markets for the months of July and August.

It displayed this data in a comparative format, with booking levels being listed as percentages of those achieved in 2019, the last full year of pre-COVID ‘normality.’ With the US being an exception in certain fields, IATA also compared the country’s data against global average figures (excluding the US). Overall, its domestic market has seen a particular surge.

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American United Tail
Last summer, the US domestic market had just 36% booking levels compared to 2019. This year represents a far more positive story. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

A busy domestic summer ahead

The key takeaway from IATA’s recently released data is that bookings for US domestic flights in July and August this year are closing in on 2019’s pre-pandemic rates. As it stands, the figure is at an impressive 85% of 2019. This represents a 236% increase compared to 2020’s numbers, which languished at just 36% compared to those of 2019.

The global average rate vs 2019’s figures sits just below the 60% mark. There is significant variation between the rest of the world’s countries, with Russia‘s figures exceeding pre-pandemic levels due to restrictions on international tourism.

On the other hand, India’s bookings are currently at just 10% vs 2019, as it deals with new COVID-19 variants. In the case of the US, IATA explains that:

The sharp fall in virus cases and quick vaccine rollout allowed the loosening of restrictions and the release of pent-up travel demand.”

Boeing 767
US domestic summer bookings are at 85% of 2019’s rates. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

International bookings remain low

While it is encouraging to see such signs of a potential domestic recovery in the US and elsewhere, international travel has further to go. This is perhaps to be expected. After all, restrictions and testing/quarantine requirements make international travel an unpredictable and expensive business for passengers at this moment in time.

In terms of the US, the country’s international booking levels for the coming summer are just over 30% of what they were in 2019. Key markets for this have been Central America and the Caribbean. In terms of global averages, demand has actually fallen compared to last summer, as restrictions continue to take their toll. That being said, IATA observes that a flurry of late bookings may help to change this trend for the better in the coming months.

What do you make of the surge in US domestic bookings? Are you planning on taking such a trip over the summer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.