Busier skies, higher airfares predicted for summer 2021

There will be more flights in the air and more passengers on planes by the summer of 2021. Since spring break, travelers have been coming to Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport in higher numbers.

Katy Fox’s first flight since the pandemic began was to Milwaukee for a conference.

"We need people back out there, spending money, doing stuff," said Fox.

Domestic travel is down 40 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to Airlines for America. International travel is down 60 percent. Air travel within the U.S. is unlikely to see a full return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023.

At LaMacchia Travel Agency in Kenosha, there are positive signs. LaMacchia’s co-owner, Tom Karnes, says the number of trips the agency is booking to "fun and sun" locations like Mexico and Jamaica is back to about 60% of LaMacchia’s bookings pre-coronavirus.

"The airlines, every day they're adding more and more flights," Karnes told Contact 6.

Before you buy an airline ticket, you should know it’s likely non-refundable, though many airlines have eliminated change fees in response to the pandemic. Airfare to many destinations is also rising, and not just for tropical locations.

"Domestically, the airfares are pretty high as well," said Karnes. "People are shifting more travel to domestic than international."

You may still find a deal on a trip to Europe, where travel from the U.S. still remains relatively low. However, the airfare app Hopper predicts the cost to fly within the U.S. will rise another 12 percent by summer.

Domestic flights are already more full, averaging 88 passengers, according to Airlines for America.

Steve Kent from New London has been traveling for business throughout the pandemic. Recently, he has noticed some differences.

"It's getting more and more crowded," said Kent. "The pricing started to come back up."

Masks are still required at Mitchell International Airport and on planes. There’s more cleaning at airports and fewer touch points.

"If you haven't traveled at all it's completely different than pre-pandemic," said Stephanie Staudinger, marketing and public relations coordinator at Mitchell International Airport.

For domestic travel, a negative COVID-19 test is only required to visit Hawaii. It’s more likely to be required for an international trip.

"We're doing everything we can do make people safe and I know the airlines are too," said Staudinger.

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Many travel packages to tropical hot spots now include a COVID-19 test at the resort before you return to the U.S.

Travel for leisure may be rebounding but business travel is not yet. Kunes says business travel is not expected to substantially rise until the end of 2021.

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