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Airlines Scramble As Travel Hesitancy Sets In Due To COVID Surge, Delta Variant

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - In early summer many Americans, who had been vaccinated and wore their masks, began to fly again as COVID-19 cases appeared to be on the decline.

Over the July 4th holiday, airports were packed and air travel seemed to be back. Then came the Delta variant.

"As Delta picked up demand has wained a little bit for domestic and international travel," said Willis Orlando, with Scott's Cheap Flights.

The Transportation Security Administration said they saw a drop of about a million passengers over the Labor Day holiday weekend compared to this year's July 4th holiday weekend. It said their data showed a decrease of 9.5 percent compared to 2019.

"The airlines are scrambling to figure out what the heck to do about this," said Orlando.

Airlines expanded their service to accommodate the early demand for flights as travelers booked trips, especially to warm weather locations. Now they don't want to take planes and crew out of service again.

"For the consumer things are very good, for the airlines they are less good. The airlines thought they would be recovering and be in a much better position than they are," said Orlando.

A poll conducted by Scott's Cheap Flights, which echoed similar polls, reflects another hurdle - the Delta variant has produced travel hesitancy.

According to the Scott's Cheap Flight poll, 74 percent said that the Delta variant had impacted their travel plans, with 35 percent not booking any new trips right now and 24 percent choosing to book only domestic travel.

Orlando said this could be a boon to those still wanting to fly.

"A lot of great deals down the line. As airlines are trying to figure out what to do, with the Delta virus it is hard to tell," he said.

Orlando said some very good deals are already popping up. He recently saw a round trip flight from Miami to Rome for only $365.

Airports in the tri-county area are likely to see a drop off of over two and a half percent in the fourth quarter.

More than 20 percent of surveyed Americans who initially planned to fly for the Labor Day weekend canceled their flights due to Delta variant concerns.

A travel agent told CBS4's Hank Tester that while things seemed hopeful a couple of months ago, it is pretty quiet now.


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