With our access to real-time traveler audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we are in a unique position to share current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this series we take a look at the data in order to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. Marketers can use these trends to inform their strategies during this period and be prepared for the recovery once the situation stabilizes.
Travel has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Many airlines including American Airlines, have intensified aircraft cleaning, using electrostatic sprayers and other measures to help travelers feel safe. Some have introduced curbside check-in/ticket counters, new boarding procedures, and are blocking middle seats to promote social distancing. Other policies have been put in place to give travelers more peace of mind when booking in advance, like offering a rebooking for a later date without a change fee.
Despite the virus, our flight booking data indicates that people are still itching to travel. The most growth is evident in North America where travel restrictions are being relaxed consistently, especially across the US. Many states are moving into phase 2 of recovery plans, with the governors of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin announcing that they will work in close coordination to safely reopen Midwestern states.
Though the Caribbean remains off limits to travelers, which has resulted in a low number of cases, there was a spike in bookings in early May. We believe this increase in bookings could be driven by people going home to visit friends and family for the first time since the quarantine began. It’s speculated that as restrictions start to ease and travel is permitted, people will begin arriving on the islands as early as June with a surge predicted in July. Saint Lucia announced plans for the first phase of reopening on June 4. Face masks will be required and intense cleaning measures will be put in place to ensure safety for travelers.
We’ve indexed our data back to April 5, 2020, the lowest point the globe saw for travel searches and bookings.
We also looked at the current top 10% of flight searches from major hubs where we see the biggest change. The graph shows the fastest growing routes when comparing the prior two weeks to two weeks before that (May 3 – 16 compared with April 19 – May 2) to identify strong signals from our national and regional airline partners.
Key takeaways from the graph below:
- People are planning travel close to home, both domestic and intraregional travels.
- For countries that still require a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, we can speculate that people are traveling to visit friends/families that they haven’t seen since the quarantine was instated.
- Some of the upticks in searches we see above are driven by steep discounts promoted by regional airlines, for example, promotions for the Orlando to San Juan Route.
- While Seoul – Jeju City ranks 7th, this origination and destination has the highest search activity in the last two weeks. This route is considered one of the busiest routes in the world. Pre-COVID, flights left every eight minutes on average from Seoul. South Korea also seemingly has successfully navigated the pandemic, so much so that they have officially reopened high schools.
Preparing for Recovery: The Future of Air Travel
In a conversation with American Airlines VP of Digital Customer Experience, John Gustafson, we discuss how COVID-19 has impacted the airline industry and how the crisis will shape its future. We share global flight booking and search data and gain first-person insights into American Airlines’ response to the pandemic. Learn how they are rethinking their approach to marketing and the future of air travel in general.
You can download the slides here.
For real-time insights specific to your region or country, check out our insights dashboard.