Will Covid Take Down Travel Again In The Fall?

We’ve seen continued high levels of infection around the world in places that also have high rates of vaccination like Chile, the Seychelles and the U.A.E. Not all vaccines are created equal, and lower efficacy ones such as Sinovac’s Coronavac do provide some protection but aren’t ending the pandemic and may not be reducing asymptomatic spread well either.

It’s not surprising then to see continued masking recommendations for those who have been vaccinated from the World Health Organization. Their advice isn’t limited to countries with the most effective vaccines. The CDC disagrees – they are offering advice to the U.S. where mRNA vaccines are predominantly in use.

Here most places have re-opened. There’s an expectation that many businesses will return to the office in the fall. Schools are expected to be open. Already leisure travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and in some places has exceeded it. But is this state of affairs going to last?

I’ve been an optimist, guided by science. In June 2020 I wrote that we’d see a vaccine approved before end of year, then “we could have mass vaccinations in spring, then summer 2021 could be normal.” If anything I tempered my expectations too much – I did not anticipate the degree of effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines.

However travel may not be out of the woods yet, for two reasons.

  1. As summer ends, and people return to offices, leisure travel may dry up. It traditionally declines in the fall, when airlines rely more heavily on business travel. But while business travel does seem poised to begin a comeback in the fall, it may take time and may not play the supporting role it traditionally dose. This may mean current optimism about travel faces the reality that it isn’t sustainable throughout September, October and up until the Thanksgiving holiday hits.

  2. Variants could lead to fear of the virus that keeps people home, or even new restrictions. The U.K. has been fearful of return to normal even though their dominant vaccine performs better than the Chinese vaccines. Israel has seen a rise in cases despite its head start against the world in vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech.

There were plenty of scary stories about breakthrough infections in Israel, but with their high level of vaccination having a high percentage of vaccinated among positive cases is exactly what you’d expect. And even in the U.K. a resurgence in the virus hasn’t been accompanied by spiking hospitalizations.

The best vaccines continue to perform well against the variants. Where there are breakthrough infections, those haven’t been as severe overall (of course there are anecdotal examples otherwise). And older people tend to have higher levels of vaccination, so cases have clustered amongst younger people who are less vulnerable anyway.

Nonetheless with the Delta variant of the virus we could see another wave of infection, especially as we exit the summer and the benefit of seasonal reduction in transmission.

A back of the envelope estimate is that 62% of the U.S. currently has immunity from vaccination or prior infection, accounting for both the potential of breakthrough infection as well as vaccination to likely be higher among those who haven’t already had the virus. And we’d expect to see another 11% of the population infected by the Delta variant or 36 million people.

This is back of the envelope, and things won’t play out exactly this way. Some unvaccinated people will mix largely with the vaccinated and won’t actually be at risk. Some people without vaccine immunity or prior infection may still be immune. But it’s an order of magnitude significant projection, and a real scenario to consider.

Future infections will skew towards younger people, less susceptible to severe disease. And it will be mostly centered in areas with low levels of immunity such as certain parts of the Southeast. In the U.K. spread is primarily centered amongst the unvaccinated.

The question for travel is two-fold,

  1. How will people, including the vaccinated, react to high levels of virus transmission in the community? Will they limit their activity, even if they personally are at low risk thanks to incredibly effective vaccines (though at higher levels of risk than if the virus wasn’t circulating at all, of course)?

  2. How will policymakers respond? Will they take the view that anyone not getting vaccinated is basically assuming risk, and that hospitals probably won’t be overwhelmed because the virus will probably circulating amongst younger people most? Or will they react to case numbers and impose restrictions on indoor gathers, re-impose masking requirements, etc.?

Some people may choose not to travel because of a virus resurgence. But if activities for while you’d travel start to close or face a host of restrictions, other people may choose not to travel simply because it’s less enjoyable.

Spread (largely) among the unvaccinated may be a reason policymakers choose to continue the mask mandate past September 13, 2021 even for those who have been vaccinated. Lobbying by airline unions for them to do so is another reason.

We’re not done with the pandemic, in the U.S. or the world, even though those of us who have gotten mRNA vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech continue to appear to have robust protection against variants.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Variants are the X factor. While the Delta variant is more contagious and cause easier spread, the vaccinated seem to have some ability to defend against it. The bigger concern is what if another variant (or 2, or 3, etc.) continue to pop up? Because there are many parts of the world where vaccinations are insufficient to slow the evolution of the coronavirus. And if the vaccinated start to become suspectible at getting infected, then it will definitely cause concern as our entire logic is based on being able to not get ill if vaccinated.

    Israel has reported that up to 50% of the new cases are from the Delta variant, and coming from vaccinated people. This is an precursor to what a different variant can do; and possible change in efficacy/protection that the fortunate ones that have been vaccinated may be exposed to.

    Getting ahead of the spread by creating herd immunity and blocking off avenues for the coronavirus to spread/mutate is the only real way to ensure that we can control it. But unfortunately, there’s doesn’t appear to be an alignment in that logic, either in the US, or abroad.

  2. The unvaccinated south will cause the creation and spread of new variants.
    Go freedom!

  3. None of the variants, past or present, have shown any significant detriment to mrna vaccine efficacy. Until I see such data, imho covid’s over. End of discussion.

  4. 100%. Enjoy Summer 2021. Fall/Winter/Spring will be nasty again. Close the world to non essential travel, everyone must be vaccinated for world to re-open. Nothing open until world is vaced

  5. My cousin is fully vaccinated here in UK, had previously had the virus last summer and caught it again when her son caught it after going to the football (soccer) in London with thousands of others which is part of the cause of the big outbreak is Scotland.

    Yes it it was mildish symptoms she had but Delta defo ain’t no joke

  6. @too many – given how many people in israel are vaccinated yoiu would expect cases to come in significant number from the vaccinated population!

  7. @ Gary — Why all the hype about how highly vaccinated Israel is? Their vaccination rate is 57% vs USA 48%. That is clearly a significant difference, but the way people talk, you would think it is 80%+.

  8. In the US, covid will not take down travel again in the fall, but the numbers of trips/flyers will reduce. At this moment, it is a “reopening” for many after a year staying at home. Thus, people fly everywhere. It is a celebration, plus summer/holiday time. However after this celebration is over, the number will drop for sure. Less people will fly and it’s not because of covid, but rather the ridiculous ticket prices, so expensive car rental/rooms… People do it 1 or 2, 3 times but doubtfully people would travel domestically like this every month. If the world reopens as one mentioned and the Biden Administration relaxes the reentry rules, things might be back to normal slowly. US carriers, especially United (UA) just take advantage of the situation to profit from those who have been “jailed” at home for over a year.

  9. Good of you Gary for noticing Chile, Seychelles, UAE, etc….but it’s no different with AstraZeneca or Pfizer.

    search – rair variants nobel prize winner

    but you have to use DUCKDUCKGO. Google is grossly manipulating search results to obscure covid truths.

    twitr channel – MCONCEPTIONS using OUR WORLD IN DATA graphs you can duplicate in seconds, shows you vax rollout = cases / deaths spike just about everywhere…especially for those where it is “COVID DEATH SEASON” Caused larger spikes in UK, and Israel, etc..USA is a bit harder to see.

    Right now in Northern Hemisphere is GOOD WEATHER / STRONG UV-B. So of course deaths/hospitalizations are low. It was the same last year with ZERO VAX. We’ll see this fall / winter…oh wait. We can already see – by looking at South America and South Africa.

    Youtube video: xNM3z3Hn5-A – see how mRNA vax inventor (Steve Malone) talks about vax causing variants.

    You can use GoogLIE to search – SALK SPIKE PROTEIN

    also – mRNA technology pioneer says Covid-19 vaccinated people can shed spike protein, Twitter says delete this – India Today

    …That pioneer happens to be one of the co-founders of Moderna!

    Spike protein does the damage. Articles on Mercola and The Defender are also useful re: this.

    ….Taiwan for example had zero problems until they rolled out AstraZeneca. How come “masks” aren’t working in Taiwan all of a sudden?

  10. 1) Leisure travel among the vaccinated will stay high, but some businesses will pull back on corporate travel and conferences with areas of high community spread
    2) Things like vaccine passports will come back in vogue in some areas, especially for things like Broadway plays
    -3) More corporate events will be moved from Jan-Apr 2022 and from Oct-Dec 2022 into May-Sep 2022
    4) Vaccination rates will increase from fall through Winter 2022, basically ensign the pandemic by late 2022/early 2023

  11. Also I would add that some people will not travel or travel less because it’s just not as much fun. Lounges closed. Big lineups. Less points deals as hotels and flights are starving for cash and want to take cash over points. Loyalty programs are the least generous as ever so no need to mileage run or. Matress run. Pools are closed or restricted so less fun for the kids Add to that the increase in stress and so many changing restrictions I myself am not traveling much.

  12. Greg – those people have already been replaced by new leisure travelers. Leisure travel is past pre pandemic levels as of today.

  13. AA has cut back Sep flights DFW-LHR FROM 4/day to 1/day at freakin’ 3 o’clock. So the airlines are already bracing for it internationally.

    Could have booked that early light for about 20k miles less back in May when we booked a 7 pm flight, but has AA offered a refund on the differential? Dream on.

  14. @ whocares — It took me 15 seconds to see that Mr. Malone is connected to Tucker Carlson, so I’m pretty sure everything you wrote about is a bunch of lies.

  15. OMG! He still believes in asymptomatic spread. Has he learned nothing about this charade over the past 18 months? Very sad!

  16. “Nonetheless with the Delta variant of the virus we could see another wave of infection,” Could? Umm maybe check your facts. The case count is already climbing because of the delta variant in the US. In Arkansas cases are surging. Los Angeles just reported the highest number of daily cases since April. Florida in the past week has added another 15,600+ covid cases. There is no could about it. The US had their chance but the anti-vaxxer/anti-mask crowd decided against doing the right thing and now we are going backwards.

    “The U.K. has been fearful of return to normal ” Fearful really? Analysis by Public Health England has already shown the Delta variant to be about 60% more transmissible than the Alpha, or Kent, variant and perhaps twice as likely to hospitalize people. But big brave Gary is going to call the U.K. “fearful”

    ” In the U.K. spread is primarily centered amongst the unvaccinated.” And yet half the people who have died recently from COVID in the UK were fully vaccinated. Getting vaccinated lowers your chances from getting the virus but it doesn’t offer 100% protection. So when you have unvaccinated anti-maskers running around with the virus they can infect and even kill people who got fully vaccinated. Just another reason why the unvaccinated shouldn’t be allowed to wander around maskless in public places.

  17. Either way, most companies/customers will say, let’s have a Zoom/Teams meeting first. Why take the risk of letting a stranger enter your building and bring the virus to your company.

  18. We need to stop coddling the unvaccinated. You want to get on a plane? Show your vaccine card. You want to go to school? Show your card. You want to attend an indoor sports event or concert show your card. If all adults and adolescents in North America got vaccinated, deaths would be in single digits per week right now and COVID would truly be over here.

  19. @ TProphet — Hey, don’t blame me, I only live and vote here. Its not my fault if morons get elected. There are plenty of Blue areas in The South. Surprisingly, even Alabama has the Blue Belt, which is comprise of a majority of African American voters.

  20. Bill, you’re right about the half figure for Britain but it is statistically meaningless. 50 out of 117, and almost all over 50.

    Anyway, I think the cruise ship industry is doing it right. When the dopey governor of Florida said that they couldn’t make passengers get vaccinated before boarding they came up with an alternative. Unvaccinated people can certainly come along, they just to be socially and physically isolated, have to keep masked, cannot get off in any ports, and are to be generally treated like unwanted house guests. Doing the same thing on a national scale would get the idea across real quick: You have the right not to be vaccinated, but everyone else has the right not to be around you. It’s the same reason why you can buy a rifle but can’t load it and wave it around in a crowd.

  21. Travel *DID* bring the Delta variant to the US, and now *IS SPREADING* it around to areas that didn’t have it. The industry is making its own bed to sleep in, and we will all suffer while they make money and pay CEOs millions. In economics, it’s called an externality.

    Stupid governments allow this to take place. Ones that don’t even issue tamper-proof vaccination certificates or require vaccination to travel. Or heed the epidemiologist’s call to go slow on relaxing restrictions.

    (Incidentally, well known fact is that COVID hospitalizations increased in the towns that hosted the G7 after the meeting brought in thousand of travelers)

  22. People used to die from the common cold and still do from the flu….and car accidents….and gunshot wounds…even though we list those a corona too. Get vaccinated and live your life. After the Delta varient, there’ll be the Echo, Foxtrot and Golf variant….maybe even the Trump variant and so on. This doesn’t end until the 2022 midterms and guaranteed that President Harris extends the mask mandate from Sept 13.
    “Stay home. Stay safe. Collect unemployment.”

  23. Whocares – good to see someone here who doesn’t follow the sheep narrative. The rest, unfortunately, not looking good.

    Sage report says 60 to 75% of people who had both shots will be sick, hospitalized or die when the third wave hits, which it will. Antibody-dependent enhancement will be the doomsday detonator. Spike protein from the injections causing the problem. Unless you were the lucky ones who got saline, which is definitely happening on purpose in the USA to avoid mass casualties.

    Hoping no single engine pilots get blood clots while flying. Or, Uber drivers on their shifts. Or any one of a number of other possibilities. Sad thing is….it didn’t have to be this way if it wasn’t for greed. So many other ways to extinguish Covid.

    If any of you give this experiment to your kids you should be put in jail. Crimes against humanity and child abuse.

    What a mess the fall/winter will be.

  24. Hey, here’s a possible motto for airlines:
    ‘NO VACCINATION, NO FLY’
    .You’re welcome!

  25. @Gary –
    You can try to interpret it in a different way, as one can expect a majority of the Covid19 cases in Israel to be from non-vaccinated people. Instead, half of the new cases are from vaccinated, so the vaccinated people are equally susceptible. Not because they have a majority of people vaccinated.

  26. It may happen and you can always be glad that your constant harping against face mask requirements on planes will have helped contribute to it.
    The delta variant is a sum’bitch as may be said in the South. Till it hits your country, keep screaming that masks aren’t required on planes. It’s much more contagious

  27. The Coronavirus is here to stay we need to get used to it and get back to normal. Think of it as another iteration of the flu.

  28. What a great excuse by the vaccine makers to justify billions of dollars of income with no repercussions.
    “Give us billions and vaccinate everyone! And release us from all liability!”
    Then a “variant” comes along.
    “Well, guess the billion people we vaccinated need another shot. Give us billions more, and oh yea can’t sue us if a bunch of kids die of heart inflammation!”
    Rinse. Repeat.

  29. You need to take this negative mind set and shove it somewhere. Countries need to make sure hospitalization rates are down and the death rate is down. COVID is here to stay and it will continue to mutate and the sooner people realize that the better. So these vaccinations people are getting better work or what is the purpose of getting them? It’s been well over a year and people are beyond exhausted of this bs world wide. We can’t keep trying to instill fear in people in order to get article views.

    There is testing, there is vaccine, there are treatments. Almost 60% are vaccinated in The US are vaccinated. Stop making it seem like it’s 2%!

  30. @Jake “Travel *DID* bring the Delta variant to the US” I’m not sure I’ve seen this proven, although it might have happened this way. The virus mutates in similar ways around the world, so the Delta variant could have developed on its own here. Or it could have independently developed and been brought here. If anyone has seen preprint research on this I’d be curious to get pointed to it.

  31. @Gene – first dose confers quite a bit of protection, Israel got theirs up quickly but they were slow to get the vaccine out to 12+

  32. @Gary. While I’ve not read anything about travel bringing the Delta variant here, I did read that in the U.K. the earliest cases of it were clustered in Indian communities where people had recently traveled from the Indian subcontinent. As well, I also read that in Seychelles, and Maldives that the surges were created by many Indian travelers who were using the islands as a 14 day stopover so as to gain entry to other countries. One would assume this is how a variant first detected in India gets here. It doesn’t fly across the ocean by itself. Still very surprised that BoJo never bothered to lock down travel to/from India early on. There has to be quicker responses to these variants when they first appear in different regions, and the shutting down of movement from these locations, or else we are never going to see daylight. Wait until it really takes hold in Africa. God help us all.

  33. This blogger should provide a word of warning that when providing his opinion and analysis of covid as he lacks training in public health and medicine.

  34. Younger people are already showing up at hospitals, not deathly ill but ill enough to require hospitalization.
    The real question is if hospitals get busy whether those people will be deprioritized. As it stands, they most certainly will not because they have COVID and require isolation rooms. You cannot keep them in the hallway as that is unsafe for others.

  35. I’m just hoping the vaccine works against any new variants that may rise from the anti vaxx population and that natural selection moves a little faster within the tin hat wearing mouth breathing community.

  36. Not mentioned so far in this discussion is that COVID has had a huge impact on social conventions, thanks in part to technologies like ZOOM and TEAMS. One effect is that many employers now recognize the significant savings in travel expenses that can be realized by replacing face to face meetings with virtual meetings.

    While there will still be a need for face to face meetings, the cost benefit equation of business travel will face much closer scrutiny, now that “the cat is out of the bag”.

    On top of that, the miserable conditions of current travel will persuade some business travelers to seek alternatives, including “flying private”.

    Since the business model of the domestic airline industry is based on the healthy margins of business class fares, only those airlines that adapt quickly will survive. Expect rising economy fares and an industry shakeout once the impact of government handouts has faded away.

  37. @Todd – take your nonsense back to OANN or 8kun where it belongs…you literally just show up here to spout lies and mistruths. Gary, how do you let these trolls post this misinformation man…

  38. Oh – interesting how the top 22 US vaccinated states are all Blue, and 17 of the bottom 18 are are Red. Delta, go to town and show the anti-vaxxers how science vs. mis-truth rolls.

  39. You don’t need an ID to vote but you must have a covid vaccine to fly . lol ok Adolf

    Purchase a covid vaccine card for $0.99 on Alibaba, problem solved.

  40. Once humans started being all frightened about Covid, I’ve been a pessimist about the “return to normal” (a justified pessimist, given how much disruption will still have for a not-particularly-deadly virus). But I think your fall pessimism is overblown. Two reasons. One, humans can be irrationally fearful but — after a while — they’ve had “enough” and learn to adapt to new risks. Second, whatever the efficacy of the vaccines (and their probably somewhere between the wonder drugs touted by the MSM and the uselessness stated by critics) the reality is that pandemics NATURALLY end. Every time. And you can see this pandemic is winding down. So we’ll be fine.

  41. Question – Will I get any academic credit for having attended this online graduate level discussion/class; i.e. “Virology and its overall impact on the traveling public – now and in the future”?

    Just sayin’…

  42. The latest update from Israel has been reported – https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-05/israel-sees-decline-in-pfizer-vaccine-efficacy-rate-ynet-says

    The Delta variant results in a 64% efficacy rate among those vaccinated, down from 94%. That means MORE VACCINATED PEOPLE are catching COVID-19 Delta variant.

    The article also indicates that those who are vaccinated and catch the Delta variant do not have severe symptoms, which is a good thing.

    However, this leads to the next question: will this expanded pool of infections allow another variant to develop.

    Being vaccinated is not about just being safe for yourself, but the rest of the population. If a vaccinated person with Delta variant walks around without a mask because they don’t feel symptoms bad enough to quarantine, they become part of another vector. This spread then continues the opportunity for the virus to mutate and another variant arise, putting further risk on the efficacy of the current vaccine.

    Also, the reason the scientists know the Delta variant wasn’t home grown in the US or elsewhere is because of the DNA sequencing that allowed them to identify the exact changes and where it was first seen in patients (which, for it to simultaneously appear spontaneously at the same time, is practically impossible).

  43. VAERS data released Friday by the CDC showed a total of 441,931 reports of adverse events from all age groups following COVID vaccines, including 6,985 deaths and 34,065 serious injuries between Dec. 14, 2020 and June 25, 2021. Problem is VAERS reporting is only around 1% submitted and they also appear to be manually wiping reports.

    Janci Chunn Lindsay, Ph.D., a prominent toxicologist and molecular biologist who works with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center-Houston, says the current COVID-19 injection campaign is a “massive clinical trial” using the general population as subjects, and is calling for the program to end.

    If you’ve gotten the injection, consider yourself high risk for COVID and implement a daily prophylaxis protocol. This means optimizing your vitamin D, keeping it between 60 ng/mL to 80 ng/mL year-round, preferably with D3/K2 (non K2 if on blood thinners) and taking Liposomal vitamin C, zinc and a zinc ionophore (like Quercetin) on a daily basis, at least throughout cold and flu season. Not my medical advice. It is advice from experts with the contrarian viewpoints.

  44. @Todd that is absolutely silly. self-reported adverse events include soreness at the injection site. in may well over 99% of covid deaths were among unvaccinated individuals.

  45. @Gary – Self-reported VAERS?? That is not how it works.

    You are just caught up in the propaganda campaign. I get it. You can’t fathom a reality where your authoritative figures and big pharma are wrong. They would do nothing to hurt you. All the major mainstreams signed off on the Trusted News Initiative last year. A planned announced censorship to railroad any early treatments and vaccine safety to mass promote the “vaccine”. Does this make sense to you?? Isn’t this suppose to be America where we can have discussions? Why aren’t doctors and experts with opposing views on CNN?? If big pharma was so correct they would have no issues having a national debate on live tv with experts from both sides. Why don’t we see that and settle this once in for all??

    There is a big difference of 99% deaths died from Covid vs 99% died WITH Covid (supposedly). There are multiple experts, like Dr. Lindsay who I mentioned earlier saying stop this injection….worldwide. Yet, people like yourself just ignore these experts. How do you rationalize that?? These experts are all “nuts”?? The world is flat and that’s it??

    Can there be no middle ground for people who follow the vaccine path? Whereas, the other side, like myself, totally believes there is a Covid-labeled killer out there. Yet, the numbers show 99.95% of healthy people between 18 and 45 will recover from Covid with no treatment. Anyone 18 and younger has a 99.998% chance of recovery from Covid with no treatment. For the older group there are plenty of other treatments available though unfortunately they don’t make any money for big pharma.

    Did that 13 year old boy the CDC is investigating have to die from an experimental injection?? Cause of some spooked parent who now has to live with that decision for the rest of their life???

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