Holiday Bookings Rise as Airlines Scramble to Meet Demand

By Rachel Hartman
Rachel Hartman
Rachel Hartman
Business Reporter
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer with a background in business and finance. Her work has appeared in national and international publications for more than 10 years. She resides in Miami and travels frequently.
October 15, 2021 Updated: October 17, 2021

With the holiday season approaching, more travelers are packing their bags. In contrast to the homebound themes of 2020, searches related to flights, hotels, and rentals have greatly increased this year.

“We’re seeing search volume that is close to 2019 levels,” Willis Orlando, member operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights, told The Epoch Times.

The number of people traveling in 2021 has more than doubled compared to a year ago, data from the Transportation Security Administration show. Among the Gen Z demographic, 42 percent plan to travel more this holiday season, according to an October poll by Branded Research for The Epoch Times. For millennials, 32 percent said they intended to travel more during the 2021 holiday season; among Gen X, 26 percent expressed interest to increase travel, along with 23 percent of baby boomers, according to Branded Research data.

In some instances, travelers are revisiting postponed plans from 2020. As a result, certain places that don’t typically draw crowds during festive times are seeing an uptick in bookings.

“Thanksgiving has never been a busy travel season to South America,” Damon Corkin, founder and travel director for Weston, Massachusetts-based Andean Discovery, told The Epoch Times. The company offers personalized adventures to South America.

Due to rebookings from last year, when guests changed their travel dates to the fall of 2021, along with last-minute bookings, the travel company is gearing up for a busy time.

“The number of groups we have traveling in November 2021 is double the number of groups who traveled with us in November 2020,” Corkin said.

Rural settings continue to hold their appeal for those looking to use vacation time in the coming months.

“Villas and cottages are experiencing overbooking as people appreciate their space and ability to provide all in-house amenities,” Jeremy Scott, founder and CEO of TravelFreak, told The Epoch Times.

“Travelers are opting to travel alone with their significant other to far-flung destinations. This has led to increased travel to “forests, deserts, mountain tops, and other isolated regions.”

For domestic travel, leisure-focused destinations such as Miami, Las Vegas, and Hawaii are dominating the flight booking scene, Orlando said. Not all domestic destinations are seeing an increase; visits to business centers such as Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City lag tourist-driven places.

“That’s reflected in hotel prices, with San Francisco and New York City down about 35 percent from pre-pandemic bookings, while Miami is up 20 percent,” Orlando said.

The fluctuations have led airlines to add more flights to domestic destinations that have ranked higher in searches. If those searches lead to an increase in bookings, airlines drop the ticket price for flights to help fill the planes. By tracking prices during this fluid time, consumers could grab deals to destinations they may have initially overlooked for the holidays.

“If you’ve always wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge or tour New York City, this season might be the time,” Orlando said. With reduced travel, these main hubs are likely to be less crowded.

On the international scene, a reopening travel trend that began in 2020 is continuing into the 2021 holiday season.

“Whenever a country opens its borders, searches skyrocket and airlines scramble to add in planes to meet the demand,” Orlando said. “But then people often do not book as aggressively as they search, so prices go down. We’ve seen phenomenal deals when this happens.”

The uptick in flights and low prices, such as below $400 to fly from a major American city to Europe, usually only last a short time after a country opens its borders to international travelers.

“We typically advise that if you fly domestically, book at least one month prior to traveling and book at least two months ahead for international travel,” Orlando said.

With all of the shuffling to meet demand, however, this year consumers may be able to find a good deal in a shorter window of time.

“As airlines are adding seats back, they’re having to put out last-minute deals,” Orlando said. “We’re seeing low prices on certain flights now that we never saw in the past.”

Consumer confidence levels regarding travel have changed since the onset of the pandemic.

“While there are some travelers who feel they are not ready to travel due to the Delta variant, there are countless others who see the pandemic as a long-term chronic issue that will not prevent them from traveling,” Corkin said. “Many people are comfortable mitigating the risks of getting COVID, and traveler confidence has been steadily increasing.”

As more countries open again to tourists, a growing number of travelers are moving forward with plans to explore.

“The Delta variant has proved to be a big obstacle, but we see international travel holding steady and busy when it’s in small group settings or a private tour format,” Corkin said. “Travel done in a responsible manner with safety protocols in place is still imperative.”

Rachel Hartman
Business Reporter
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer with a background in business and finance. Her work has appeared in national and international publications for more than 10 years. She resides in Miami and travels frequently.