Americans eager to go on vacation and escape the coronavirus pandemic are driving increased search results for the airlines and certain destinations in the U.S.
Web traffic analytics firm SimilarWeb's Lead Travel Consultant Alisha Kapur told Yahoo Finance Live that Southwest Airlines (LUV) leads the online search race with 25 million monthly visits to its webpage followed by American Airlines (AAL) at 21 million and Delta Air Lines (DAL) at 15 million.
"With Southwest, I think that they've really been able to pick up on the increased domestic demand and are capitalizing on that, especially through expanding their routes regionally," Kapur said.
United Airlines (UAL) had 12 million monthly visits followed by JetBlue (JBLU) which had 7 million. And while search traffic has increased for the airlines, Kapur said the data for the top searched cities and states Utah, Miami, Montana, is also increasing.
"National parks have always been pretty heavily searched," said Kapur.
But she suspects the pandemic has changed the way people think about where to go on vacation. "I don't think that people really want to go to a crowded location for a while until they feel that it is truly safe. So even if they're vaccinated, I think that there are still a lot of questions around vaccination coverage, and really what is going to be safe and how many people you can actually be around without feeling uncomfortable."
'A huge amount of pent-up demand'
Kapur predicts a really big uptick in travel by Memorial Day. "We are sitting on a huge amount of pent-up demand," she said. And SimilarWeb's data shows where the crowds may go. The top five searched vacation destinations right now are Yellowstone National Park, Disney World, North Carolina's Outer Banks, Las Vegas and Disneyland.
The one international destination that makes the top 10 was Bora Bora in French Polynesia. "I think that what we're seeing is that as more and more wealthier populations get vaccinated, they are looking to take advantage of luxury travel and take advantage of some deals that may not last into the summer," Kapur said.
The desire to get out and go on vacation is also seen in the latest data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). More than 1 million people passed each day through the nation's airports between March 11 and March 29. The number topped 1.5 million on Sunday March 28. But that's still lower than numbers in 2019, when the daily number of passengers fluctuated between 2.1 million and 2.6 million. During that same time period in 2020, the number fell from 1.7 million to 184,000, as the coronavirus shuttered much of the nation's economy.
"We're going to end up this year by our forecast about at 605 million in plane passengers, that's down from over 900 million in 2019. So they're gonna grow back," Mike Boyd, the president of Boyd Group International, which provides analysis for airports and aviation businesses told Yahoo Finance Live.
Amid this confidence, airlines have begun expanding their flight schedules. United announced flights, starting in April, between New York and California as the airline launches new routes from JFK International Airport for the first time since 2015. Delta will launch service to Iceland in May and Southwest is offering $49 one-way tickets through April 8, for select markets, to convince passengers to book flights.
Airlines 4 America (A4A) President and CEO Nick Calio said, "We definitely want to get back to where we were two years ago. But we see that as taking a very long time." A4A is an airline industry trade group and Calio predicts the recovery from the pandemic will take his industry longer than it did after the 911 terrorist attacks. "There's been a good uptick in leisure travel, but we're still down over 40% from what we were flying a year ago at this time," he said.
SimilarWeb's Kapur said as younger people get vaccinated planes will fill up. "They have a lot of money that they've kind of been saving up over the past year especially through stimulus checks that they're willing to spend to fly to new places," he said.
The airline industry is counting on it.
Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance Live 3pm to 5pm. Follow him on Twitter @Ajshaps