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Delta Variant Could Squash The Return Of Business Travel

As more businesses and government agencies continue to add vaccine mandates for their employees or guests because of the continuing spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the airline industry is embracing what it believes could be the return of business travel this fall.

Delta Air Lines is bringing back flights to and from New York and Boston this fall, according to The Wall Street Journal, cutting some of the popular summer vacation spots from its destination list in anticipation of a shift from travel for fun to travel for work — but it’s all about timing.

Southwest Airlines and Alaska Air are trying to keep the summer travel season going a bit longer, the Journal reports, with sales across the board on some of the most popular travel destinations. Southwest is also restoring some business routes.

Almost 2.24 million people went through airport security on Sunday (Aug. 1), the highest level since the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Transportation Security Administration. That’s about 17 percent below the same time in 2019. Domestic business travel is at about 40 percent of 2019 levels.

American Airlines anticipates travelers will be making their way to business hubs including New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago by October.

Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines welcome the return of business travel, but not because they offer the service. It’s because it means the larger airlines will shift their focus from the leisure travel that’s right in their wheelhouses after a summer of competing with the big boys for a small sliver of the business.

Related: Air Travel Up In May But Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

International and domestic travel was up in May but still lower than the levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, according to a report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The data showed “marginal improvements” in May compared to April but overall, the number of people flying both domestically and abroad was still off compared with traffic before the virus largely stopped air travel for most business and all leisure trips. International travel is still suffering from restrictions due to COVID-19 and its variants, per the report.

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