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  • The Delta variant of COVID-19 has taken a measurable bite out of travel bookings.

  • Even with this surge, the recent dip in travel purchasing is muted compared to prior waves of COVID-19.

  • Examples in India and China, both with robust domestic markets, suggest a slower autumn season with a resumed recovery into the December holidays.

On June 22, the United States recorded a 2021 low of new COVID infections, trending just below 11,300 for the seven-day average. TAC Analysis published just six days later, featuring new data suggesting new infections were at a pandemic low while the U.S. travel recovery had reached new highs.

Now, less than sixty days later, new daily infections have increased by over 13 times, resulting in over 150,000 new infections recorded as of August 24. The world has witnessed the rise – and fall – of the Delta variant in India and is now grappling with the arrival of the new infectious variant to local shores.

The United States has recently matched daily infection numbers not seen since early February, then declining off of record highs seen during the holiday season. The major difference now, being the numbers of daily infections are increasing, rather than the decrease in early spring.

Through this latest wave of COVID — counted either as the third wave of COVID-19 or the first wave of the Delta variant — air travel has begun to respond in a similar way as the waves before, but with unique characteristics matching those of a traveling public becoming accustomed to the waves. This TAC Analysis looks at this most recent surge in infections, how travel demand is responding in the U.S., and what the recent rise in other regions may mean for the largest aviation market on the globe.

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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