As COVID-19 restrictions began to lessen at the beginning of 2022, travel trends were predicted to skyrocket this year. Air travel did spike; however, many outside factors hindered trips, such as flight cancellations/delays, price increases, cost of fuel, and the repercussions of the pandemic. As we know, the pandemic caused vast unemployment throughout every workforce in the world, many companies are still recovering, and airlines/airports are not excluded. While many Americans were eager to travel this summer, airlines were not prepared for the high demand. Currently, the United States is facing the worst staffing and pilot crisis as 400,000 airline workers were furloughed or fired in the last two years due to the pandemic. From air traffic control, baggage handlers, check-in agents, TSA officers, flight attendants, and pilots, it has been hard for airports to recover. In the United States, flight cancellations in the first half of the year have already surpassed flight cancellation rates in all of 2021. In 2021, the total canceled flights for the year were 121,552 compared to 121,918 canceled flights just in January-June of 2022. Flight delays have also increased, with the Fourth of July weekend seeing over 10,000 delayed flights within the United States. 43% of U.S. travelers stated that the cost of fuel will heavily impact their decision to travel during the remaining year. Domestic leisure travel is forecasted to remain $46 billion below where it should have been if not for COVID-19.
However, the U.S. Travel Association stated that overall travel spending hit a new pandemic-era high of $105 billion for the third consecutive month compared to 2019. In regard to international travel, the rates are still 43% below the 2019 rates. With Europe and Asia still being the top international travel destinations, in mid-2021, Europe opened its borders as of now, many European countries have waived COVID-19 restrictions while others still follow strict guidelines. Countries in Asia such as Nepal, Laos, Pakistan, Philippines, India, Malaysia, and many more have lifted or eased their strict COVID-19 regulations and are welcoming travelers once again. China and Japan are still implementing strict protocols such as taking two nucleic acid rt-PCR tests from two different laboratories regardless of whether you’re fully vaccinated, submitting a Letter of Commitment to COVID-19 Vaccination, and a 7-day centralized quarantine as well as a 3-day home health quarantine. Travelers were excited to hear that Japan had finally opened its borders in June of this year; however, many were upset to hear that it is solely for leisure tourists traveling as part of an organized guided tour booked through a travel agency. In Japan, COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket with their seventh wave, this time with the highly transmittable BA.5 Omicron subvariant averaging over 200,000 daily cases. Regardless of where you travel to this year, COVID-19 regulations are changing every day, and checking the rules within each country before purchasing your tickets is essential.