Fall is here for airlines and business travelers aren’t

Online activity suggests a difficult autumn season for airlines.

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Release Date
September 2, 2020
Fall is here for airlines and business travelers aren’t
  • As fall arrives, U.S. air traffic is still down 65%. Summer’s leisure travelers are receding at their anticipated seasonal pace, shifting the weight to fall business travel which has shown minimal recovery.
  • This TAC Analysis expands our predictive sentiment model into the fall, illuminating the looming challenges for airlines in the coming months.
  • Business traveler-focused programs, most notably frequent flier programs, are showing record low levels of interest, calling into question the current value of these programs just as they are being leveraged.

In a normal year, for which 2020 bears no resemblance, the bounty of the summer leisure travel season would give way to a traditional return of business travelers. The demarcation between summer and fall that comes with the U.S. Labor Day holiday is here and the industry appears to have survived its first peak summer season during a global pandemic.

But while airlines are still standing, the once-optimistic summer recovery stalled by an unfinished pandemic and a public unwilling to return in large numbers to the sky is giving way to the most challenging parts of the demand landscape.

Go Deeper: Introducing TAC Pro

For the first time, TAC Analysis is offering the accompanying expansive dataset powered by Visual Approach Analytics underpinning this analysis as part TAC Pro, our new multi-featured offering tailored for financial and industry analysts and the investor community. If you are interested in gaining access through TAC Pro, contact us for more information.

An example of the data is below. Data model also includes dynamic charts in .xlsx format.

TAC Pro Analysis Screenshot

Just as the leisure travelers, on which the airlines relied so heavily during the summer months are putting away their suitcases, the annual return of the business traveler is not happening. This, combined with the looming Oct. 1 expiration of the U.S. Government’s CARES Act payroll support and airlines warning of mass layoffs all point in a singular direction: the fall is going to be brutal.

The unprecedented crisis that felled the industry forced new rules to be rewritten overnight as the chaos in the spring gave way to a summer that looked completely different. This trend of wholesale changes of the industry’s natural economic forces will continue. September will require the airlines to rediscover the rules of operating an airline through fall, and during a global pandemic without the leisure passenger on which they have relied.

Related: Spike in coronavirus cases reveal signs of stalling U.S. air travel recovery

The Air Current has tracked and closely forecast the ups and downs of the recovery, tapping new tools and models to predict what traffic and capacity will be deployed. This TAC Analysis expands our predictive sentiment model into the fall, it is illuminating the coming challenges looming in the coming months.

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