national-airport
Passengers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
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  • Only 22% of Americans in a new survey said they feel comfortable travelling right now. 
  • It’s the lowest number UBS’ weekly survey has found since July. 
  • Still, US airports saw their busiest days since March over Thanksgiving as many Americans ignored warnings not to travel. 
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Americans are growing increasingly hesitant about flying on planes, even as record numbers headed to airports over the Thanksgiving weekend.

22% of respondents said in a weekly survey by the investment bank UBS that they would feel comfortable traveling now, the lowest percentage since July. The share of people who said they’d feel comfortable flying within four to six months and in more than six months both rose two percentage points.

The latest survey data is from November 21, meaning it’s not an instant indicator of travel weariness. However, the most recent responses come after news of successful vaccine trials from Moderna and Pfizer led to an outpouring of optimism from investors about a further rebound of the economy.

Despite a ninth-inning warning from the Centers for Disease Control against traveling for Thanksgiving, Americans still hit the road (and airport) at the highest clip since March. After seven months of daily passenger counts below 1 million, four days between Nov. 19 and 29 saw TSA screenings top the milestone.

New cases of COVID-19 and resultant hospitalizations have also continued to climb in the days since UBS’ most recent survey data, which could further erode confidence in travel plans.

The seven-day average of new cases has fallen by about 8 million since November 21, according to The New York Times, though the paper warns that reporting issues and limited testing could lead to an uptick in numbers this week following the holiday. On the eve of Thanksgiving, the country recorded its highest single-day death toll yet, with hospitalizations topping 90,000 for the first time.

Now, analysts say they’re watching for any further erosion of travel in the fall period, which is usually slower, given an assumption of little to no business travel is occurring.

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“Domestic traffic/revenue/bookings trends in December continued to trend in the wrong direction,” they warned.

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