It's been a summer filled with travel for many Americans as the rollout of vaccines and the initial drop in COVID-19 cases spurred many to return to "normal" life. But the rise in cases fueled by the Delta variant has many rethinking their upcoming travel, especially when it comes to flying. FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults to find out how this surge is affecting their travel plans and planning.
- More than half (55%) of Americans have canceled or changed travel plans due to the Delta variant.
- Almost half (47%) of potential travelers would be more likely to fly domestically if airlines began requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for passengers.
- Flyers are divided over masks — 24% would be "much less likely" to fly if airlines stopped requiring masks, while 21% would be "much more likely" to fly if masks were nixed.
- Nearly 60% of people consider a potential travel destination’s COVID-19 transmission rate when deciding where to vacation, and 68% consider the masking rules in potential vacation destinations.
- 43% said they're more likely to visit New York City because of the city's new vaccine requirement to dine in at restaurants, while 28% said they're now less likely to visit the Big Apple.
The Delta variant’s impact on travel plans
Our survey found that the Delta variant’s impact on travel in the United States is significant. Over 55% of Americans have canceled or changed travel plans because of the increase in COVID-19 cases.
Taking a deeper look, one in three Americans have already canceled travel plans due to the Delta variant, and another 22% have changed plans but still plan to travel at some point. Another 11% haven't yet made changes to their travel but anticipate they will.
Half of reluctant travelers cite COVID-19 concerns
58% of those we surveyed indicated they have not traveled via airplane at any point during the pandemic. The most common reason — cited by 50% of people — for avoiding air travel is concerns about COVID-19. A similar percentage (49%) indicated that the Delta variant has made them feel less safe to fly compared to earlier in the pandemic.
Travel planning in a time of vaccines and masking
When deciding where to travel, COVID-19 concerns are also a major consideration. Our survey found that nearly 60% of travelers consider a location's COVID-19 transmission rate when deciding whether to vacation there. A somewhat higher percentage (69%) consider the masking rules in their potential vacation destination before booking.
New York City recently announced they'll soon require restaurant-goers to show proof of vaccination in order to dine in. Our survey found that the new policy is generally well-received by potential travelers — 43% said the vaccination policy makes them more likely to visit the Big Apple, compared to 28% who said they're now less likely to visit.
Based on this sentiment, the other cities and businesses following New York's example and requiring vaccine proof for activities like indoor dining and concerts might find they also become more desirable vacation destinations for many.
How airlines' masking and vaccination policies affect travelers' likelihood to fly
Even before the Delta variant started spreading, it was a particularly brutal summer for air travelers with frequent flight delays and cancellations. And while much of the country relaxed its mask-wearing, the airlines never stopped requiring passengers to wear masks due to TSA guidelines. Now, with mask mandates and usage on the rise again, it looks like masks may be here to stay for flyers.
We asked survey respondents how'd they respond if airlines stopped requiring masks. Results were mixed, with 40% saying they'd be less likely to fly if masks were no longer required and 35% saying they'd be more likely to fly if they could do so maskless.
United Airlines recently announced they'll require their U.S. employees to be vaccinated by October. Other airlines like Southwest and American are encouraging employees to get vaccinated but aren't mandating it. Delta has been requiring new hires to be vaccinated since May but is not requiring existing employees to get vaccinated.
If airlines took it a step further and required passengers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to fly domestically, our survey found that almost half of Americans (48%) said they'd be more likely to fly. Meanwhile, a little over a quarter (27%) said they'd be less likely to fly. Another 25% said a vaccine policy wouldn't change their likelihood of flying.
Tips for traveling during COVID-19
For those still planning to travel this fall, there are some simple steps you can take to protect your wallet and make travel more comfortable (even if there are delays),
- Protect your travel investment. Travel insurance could help protect you financially if something goes wrong before or during a trip. With so many things impacting air travel right now, it might be worth adding this coverage to any upcoming trips. Be sure to check out our guide to travel insurance to answer any questions you may have about how it works.
Notably, some of the best credit cards for travel insurance actually offer complimentary travel insurance and similar benefits to users, which can make it even easier to cover your trip.
- Earn rewards on and toward your travel. Many credit cards offer generous rewards related to travel, and using one can make funding a trip easier and more rewarding (literally). If you book your travel with one of the best travel credit cards, you could take advantage of perks like reimbursement for TSA PreCheck, free baggage delay insurance, and waived baggage fees.
- Social distance more comfortably in an airport lounge. Maintaining social distance can be difficult in crowded terminals, but airport lounges can make it easier. (Plus free food and drinks!) While many people think it is difficult to access these spaces unless you are uber-wealthy, there are plenty of ways to get airport lounge access without breaking the bank.
FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 or older, who comprise a nationally representative sample of Americans, on August 5, 2021.