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The Travel Business is Picking Up for Summer – The New York Times

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The nation’s largest airlines are preparing for a limited rebound next month as more Americans book vacations in places like Florida and the mountains and national parks in the West.

That resurgence would offer some hope to the travel industry, which racked up billions of dollars in losses as tourists and businesspeople canceled trips in the last three months because of the coronavirus epidemic. Some in the industry said the recovery was now already underway.

The Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort said it was enjoying brisk business after local officials last week lifted a coronavirus shutdown order that had been in place since March.

The 1,594-room resort was about one-third full this weekend and is on track to be packed for the July Fourth weekend, said Phil Goldfarb, who oversees the Fontainebleau. But the visitors streaming in are not the ones he expected. In the summer, the hotel typically fills up largely with Florida residents. This year, the people booking rooms are coming from across the country.

“California and Texas and New York and New Jersey are the top four markets, all before Florida,” said Mr. Goldfarb, president and chief operating officer of hospitality at Fontainebleau Development, which owns the hotel and other properties. “People are getting in planes and social distancing but coming here.”

Credit…Josh Ritchie for The New York Times

After cratering in April, the number of travelers and airline and airport employees filtering through the Transportation Security Administration’s airport checkpoints has steadily climbed in recent weeks. The low point arrived on April 14, when the agency screened fewer than 90,000 people, just 4 percent of those screened the same date last year. On Sunday, the agency screened more than 440,000 people, about 17 percent of last year’s number and the best day since March.

Investors appear to have noticed those numbers, and airline stock prices have surged. American Airlines is up nearly 90 percent since Monday morning last week, United Airlines is more than 70 percent higher, and Delta Air Lines is up more than 45 percent.

Airlines say they are preparing to capitalize on the renewed interest in travel. Late last week, for example, American announced that its July flight schedule would be the most robust since the pandemic began, largely because of domestic bookings by people eager to get out after sheltering at home for months.

American plans to add flights from its hubs, including Dallas, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C., to destinations like Asheville, N.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Charleston, S.C. It also said it would significantly increase flights to Florida and seasonal destinations in Montana, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

“We’re seeing a slow but steady rise in domestic demand,” Vasu Raja, American’s senior vice president of network strategy, said in a statement. “After a careful review of data, we’ve built a July schedule to match.”

American plans to operate about 55 percent as many domestic flights as it did last July. That would be up from just 20 percent in May.

United is planning for a similar, if somewhat smaller, rebound. The airline said it will add flights to New York, Boston, Seattle and Philadelphia next month to serve commercial and governmental travel. It also plans to add flights to reopening vacation destinations, including Las Vegas; Portland, Maine; Aspen, Colo.; and Jackson, Wyo.

Delta expects to fly twice as many passengers next month as it did in May, its chief executive, Ed Bastian, said.

“I think leisure will come back first,” Mr. Bastian said in an interview broadcast last week by Business Travel News. “We already see it. You look at the areas that we have the greatest demand currently: Florida has got a fair bit of demand. The mountain states have a fair bit of demand. Arizona, another Sun Belt area, has got a fair bit of demand. Places where people feel like they can go to escape the virus for a bit.”

Credit…Josh Ritchie for The New York Times

Montana is among the states that stand to benefit from the expanded service, with American planning to nearly double the daily flights there in July. Some of those will arrive at Glacier Park International Airport, just outside Glacier National Park and a short drive from Great Northern Resort, which includes a 14-room hotel and five cabins.

The resort fielded cancellation calls for months as the pandemic spread, but things started to look up after the national park announced that it would begin reopening on Monday this week, said Catherine Beers, who owns the resort with several members of her family.

In May, the resort is typically about half full, Ms. Beers said, but this year it hosted only two couples all month, both locals. Since then, the cancellation calls have subsided, and the hotel is about 80 percent booked for July and August, months when it usually has no vacancies.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 5, 2020

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

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      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


More of her incoming calls are from people interested in booking a room or cabin because they are seeking out a destination where they can spread out.

“If you go to the grocery stores, there are people and you do have to stand on the stickers, but once you get out on the edges of bigger cities it’s so easy to be distant from people,” Ms. Beers said.

But even as the Great Northern Resort and the Fontainebleau provide early signs for optimism, the airline industry’s reckoning is far from over.

Industry executives and analysts generally agree that it is likely to be several years before airlines fly as many people as they did before the pandemic. Airlines are still losing tens of millions of dollars every day. That number is shrinking, but the losses are expected to continue through the end of the year. Generally, a flight needs to be about three-fourths full for an airline to turn a profit, but most are far from it because airlines can’t or won’t fill up planes.

And while some people are willing to fly, much of the traveling public is still wary of getting on a plane, especially as reports of packed cabins and lax enforcement of distancing policies abound. Two-thirds of those polled by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News recently said they were uncomfortable with the idea of getting on a plane. More than half of several hundred epidemiologists surveyed by The New York Times said they wouldn’t board a plane until next spring at the earliest.

And international travel, a smaller but more lucrative part of the aviation business, remains depressed and most likely will be for quite some time. Business travel also appears weak and unlikely to rebound quickly, because corporations are cutting costs and avoiding sending employees on trips unless they absolutely need to.

Perhaps the biggest concern for the airline industry is that its nascent recovery could be snuffed out if coronavirus infections and deaths surge again, especially if people stop taking health precautions as they start moving around the country this summer.

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