Airlines Are Luring Travelers Back With Cheap Fares and Empty Seats — but Is It Worth It?

Airlines Are Luring Travelers Back With Cheap Fares and Empty Seats — but Is It Worth It?

This article originally appeared in Travel+Leisure.

This spring, airlines grounded most of their fleets and slashed more than 90 percent of their schedules. Even then, many planes flew nearly empty. By July, U.S. carriers had recovered some of their pre-pandemic business, with flights on average about 50 percent full, according to Cirium, a company that tracks the sector. Airlines remain in dire financial straits, but the mask-wearing passengers still flying have found plenty of room to stretch out (even in coach), plus uncongested airports, deep-cleaned aircraft, and tons of overhead bin space.

Thanks to limited demand, airfares are more affordable than they have been in years, with domestic one-ways starting as low as $24. Other deals, ever-changing border closures notwithstanding, included New York to Paris and back for $227 (on TAP Air Portugal) and round-trips from the U.S. to Melbourne for an eye-popping $353 (on Air Canada). But price alone might not be enough to get folks flying again, says Jennie Blumenthal, an aviation expert at PwC, the consulting firm. About two in five travelers would be willing to pay more to ensure physical distancing on their next flight, according to a PwC survey.

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