The future of air travel


Summer vacations used to mean wine tasting in Tuscany, backpacking in Southeast Asia or trips to the Grand Canyon.

But fears that airplanes could be a breeding ground for Covid-19 infections have wreaked havoc on the air travel industry.

“This could take several years before we’re into our new normal of traveling,” said Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian.

Last Sunday, fewer than 640,000 passengers flew out of U.S. airports compared with more than 2.6 million travelers a year earlier.

With passenger demand in sharp decline, Delta, United and American parked hundreds of planes and posted their first quarterly losses in more than five years. 

American Airlines said it expects its second quarter 2020 revenue to be down about 90% versus the second quarter of 2019. 

The U.S. airline industry is in turmoil.

This is the biggest crisis of all, bigger even than 9/11, than SARS and the Great Recession and all of that. Every crisis changes the airline industry, so it’s only reasonable to think that the biggest crisis of all will cause some of the biggest changes of all,” said Seth Kaplan, aviation analyst and principal with Kaplan Research. 

To lure panicked travelers back, U.S. carriers have implemented new rules, deep-cleaned planes and waived some fees. Some airlines are also limiting the number of seats they sell.

But analysts argue that even with all the changes, it’s impossible to maintain social distancing rules on airplanes.

U.S. airlines are facing their biggest crisis in a generation and the stakes have never been higher. So will all these changes keep passengers safe? And what can travelers expect in six months? Watch this video to learn more.

Watch more:

Why US hospitals are closing
What airlines are doing to clean their planes

For more on tech, transformation and the future of work, join the most influential voices disrupting the next decade of work at the next CNBC @Work Summit this October.

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