The rideshare business is making a big comeback. People are beginning to emerge from their homes and get back to living, including going to restaurants, bars, and big events. While the COVID-19 nightmare is not yet over, there seems to be some let-up on how “locked down” people are.
How does this work with travel, specifically airport traffic?
The airport has traditionally been a staple for rideshare drivers, but during COVID-19 lockdowns, airport passengers became about as common as Pterodactyls in flight.
Now that the economy is opening up again, air travelers could come back out of extinction. In this post, we report on industry projections, and make some observations about whether, and how much, airport traffic is on the rebound. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What do business experts say about air travel?
- How much of a revival has there been?
- What’s it look like on the ground?
- How to play it smart at the airport
What do business experts say about air travel?
“Reshuffling” is just one of the steps airlines have had to take over the course of the pandemic. Many airlines cut back on flights, and most had to rely on government subsidies just to stay afloat. People lost the urge to travel when they became aware of the dangers of COVID-19, and learned how infectious the virus is. Now, though, as people have grown weary of being shut down and are emerging with a vaccine-fueled sense of safety, the situation is starting to change.
According to a Longwoods International study published at the end of April 2021, only 30% of people surveyed said their travel plans would be impacted by their fear of coronavirus. Earlier this year, the LA Times reported that 81% of those surveyed indicated they planned to use air transportation in the next six months.
According to Bloomberg.com, the airlines are no longer suffering so much. Summer bookings are not all that easy to come by, and prices are higher than when airlines slashed their prices just to get people to come onboard.
It appears that air travel, at least for those who want to fly for leisure, is on the upswing. That doesn’t mean, however, that things will immediately return to where they were in 2019.
How much of a revival has there been?
The quantity of airport traffic depends on more than just how much people want to slip out of town for a weekend in the city or fly down to Cabo for a few days. According to McKinsey & Company, airport traffic in the post-crisis period will be driven by a given region’s economic outlook, and how well they can keep their case numbers down.
In New Zealand, where there are strict quarantine rules for those arriving, the country has scored high on both counts, and now domestic travel is at almost 70% of pre-pandemic levels. Revival also comes faster in countries where vaccines are widely available.
This is true in the US, where the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has reported serving a million passengers a day and more since the beginning of March 2021. According to TSA spokeswoman Alexa Lopez, the number of passengers screened by the agency was just under 2 million on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend – the highest number of passengers screened by the agency in a single day since the pandemic began.
Leisure travel is apparently on the increase, but what about business trips? The airlines want business travel to come back even more than we drivers do.
At a June 3, 2021 virtual conference, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian predicted a “renaissance” of business travel. He stated that as the economy opens back up, people will want to get back out to connect with colleagues in person more than ever. Furthermore, those who are working remotely are likely to book trips to make periodic trips back to company headquarters. “There’s just so many reasons why people need to get out and connect,” Bastain said.
The picture executives such as Bastian paint for investors may not be as rosy as they’d like, but things are definitely improving. American Airlines still expects to fall 40% short of 2019 levels this year, while Delta expects a slight decrease in projected losses. While this isn’t especially great news, it is encouraging.
Drivers have also been noticing airports coming back to life, at least to some degree.
What’s it look like on the ground?
The driver’s perspective is the one that matters most, of course. Most of us would say, though, that the business gurus are correct in assuming there will be more airport traffic in areas where there is more economic activity and low or at least stable COVID case numbers.
In Pittsburgh, where both conditions exist, we see some decent airport activity beginning to crop up.
Before long, as the summer progresses and more people schedule vacations, volumes are bound to increase. It may (at long last) even pay to hang out for a while in the waiting areas and join the queues. While they’re not quite up to where they were two years ago, they’re much larger than they were this time last year.
Different cities will have variations on this tale to tell.
Places like Miami and Las Vegas, which were locked down for shorter periods of time and have a robust tourist industry, may have even greater indications of a bounceback. Others, in more remote or more locked-down localities, will still see their airport traffic closer to the flatline side of things. Send us your reports! We’d love to hear what’s happening in cities everywhere.
How to play it smart at the airport
While there hasn’t yet been a complete bounceback, there’s plenty of potential at the airports. How can you make the most of it?
Be aware of peak travel times.
These may have changed since the pre-pandemic days. Fewer business travelers might be coming in on the red-eye. But … more couples and families could be heading off for their holidays. That traffic could come early in the morning or later in the day. Arrivals home usually come either late in the afternoon or during evening hours because people want to make the most of their time away from home.
Check Gridwise to get current airport information, and you’ll even know how many passengers are coming in. That will tell you whether it’s worth waiting around, or if it could pay off to cruise by and see who needs a “Lyft” back into town.
After a long hiatus, many big events are coming back. This includes those sporting events that attract out-of-towners who want to spend the weekend at the game and check out a new city. Gridwise can help with that, too! You’ll not only be able to check when events are taking place, you’ll also get alerts when they’re starting and letting out.
Scout out hotels at departure times.
If your city hosts lots of visitors, check the hot departure times, then hang out around hotels for an hour or two before the peak begins. Chances are you’ll find people who are glad to find you nearby so they can get to the airport in plenty of time.
There’s a lot to get used to as the pandemic shutdowns end, and one of the biggest is remembering that traffic is heavier again – in a big way. Your estimated arrival times might be pushed back as people head to picnics, the lake, or the beach. Although things are not totally back to 2019 normal yet, they’re on their way. Let Gridwise alert you to traffic issues and delays.
Track your earnings, too!
The best way to know if your airport strategy is paying off is to see how much money you’re making. In addition to clueing you in on airport volume and alerting you to events and traffic conditions, Gridwise tracks your earnings and your mileage, and lets you record all your expenses. Once you get all our apps connected to Gridwise, you can let the information flow in. Then, you can see everything at a glance with charts and graphs like these:
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