Coronavirus Hits Outbound U.S. Flight Bookings

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The coronavirus outbreak has begun to take its toll on outbound flight bookings from the United States, according to a new report by aviation analytics firm ForwardKeys. In the five weeks following the imposition of travel restrictions from China, January 20 – February 17, there was a 19.3 percent decline in the number of bookings made for travel from the United States. 

The majority of the decline was caused by a precipitous 87.7 percent drop in flight bookings from the United States to the Asia Pacific region. The effect has been felt in other parts of the world, too, however. Bookings to Europe have fallen by 3.6 percent, and to the Americas by 6.1 percent. 

Bookings to Africa and the Middle East, which has only a small (6%) share of outbound U.S. travel, have increased by 1.3 percent, however. 

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Breaking the world down into 15 different regional destinations, all have seen a drop in bookings from the United States in the past five weeks, with the exception of North Africa, Sub Saharan Africa and Central America, which have seen their bookings rise by 17.9 percent, 4.4 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively. 

In the order of least to worst affected, bookings were down as follows: to Western Europe by 1.7 percent, to Southern Europe by 2.8 percent, to North America by 3.3 percent, to South America by 3.4 percent, to the Middle East by 4.2 percent, to Northern Europe by 5.5 percent, to Central/Eastern Europe by 7.7 percent, to the Caribbean by 12.5 percent, to Oceania by 21.3 percent, to South Asia by 23.7 percent and to South East Asia by 94.1 percent. In the case of North East Asia, there were more cancellations than new bookings.

ForwardKeys said that the outlook for the coming months, as based on current bookings for March, April and May, is somewhat brighter because a large proportion of long-haul flight bookings are made in advance. As of February 25, total outbound flight bookings from the United States are 8.0 percent behind where they were at the equivalent date last year. The majority of the lag is caused by a 37.0 percent slowdown in bookings to the Asia Pacific region. Forward bookings to Africa and the Middle East are 3.9 percent ahead, to Europe are flat (0.1% ahead) and to the Americas are 4.1 percent behind.

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