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United Airlines: Travel Expected to Surge in December

Date: October 13, 2021

United Airlines is gearing up for a travel surge in December, as the airline expects its largest domestic schedule since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020.

The airline announced it will fly 3,500 daily domestic flights in December, which marks United's biggest domestic schedule since the start of the pandemic. The scheduled flights will bring the airline to just over 90% of its December 2019, pre-pandemic levels, according to a press release, "to support expected surge in holiday travel demand."

"We're seeing a lot of pent-up demand in our data and are offering a December schedule that centers on the two things people want most for the holidays: warm sunshine and fresh snow," Ankit Gupta, vice president of network planning and scheduling at United, said in a press release. "We know families and friends are eager to reunite this holiday season, which is why we're thrilled to add new flights that will help them connect and celebrate together."

United expects its busiest travel days for Thanksgiving will be Nov. 24 and Nov. 28, while Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 are expected to be popular days for winter holiday travel.

Like much of the leisure and hospitality industry, airlines took a big hit during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. But demand for air travel began rising as vaccinations increased and coronavirus cases decreased earlier this year, with flight bookings nearly reaching pre-pandemic levels by June.

However, the sudden rise of the delta variant this summer "all but blunted the path to recovery," according to an Adobe Analytics analysis released in August, which recorded a second-straight month of declining bookings during the month.

But since then, airlines have been at the helm of corporate coronavirus restrictions such as vaccine mandates to keep their operations running. In August, United Airlines became the first carrier to institute a vaccine mandate for all of its employees, and just last week reported that almost all of its workers are now vaccinated. American, Alaska and JetBlue announced last week they would require vaccinations, after President Joe Biden put pressure on federal contractors and some private companies to institute vaccine mandates for employees.

"Requiring our employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 isn't just the right thing to do, it's the life-saving thing to do," United CEO Scott Kirby said.

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