It’s an emotional balancing act so many people are struggling with at the moment. On one hand, we’re desperate to reconnect with friends we haven’t seen in person in ages for a big event. On the other hand, the pandemic is raging once again.
On Wednesday, Cotton Starr of Houston was expecting to see her friends in San Diego for the first time – in a long time.
Kim Hoff, outside Denver, has been waiting even longer – planning to meet her friends at Dragon Con – a pop culture convention in Atlanta next month.
Both canceled their long-awaited trips due to the spread of the Delta variant.
“It was really kind of heartbreaking to not be able to finally go,” Starr said.
“It’s been basically two years now since I’ve been able to see them,” Hoff said. “When it got to the point of the rates just skyrocketing in the last week or so, I thought, ‘no, I’m sorry, there’s no level of logistics that will make me feel OK if I bring this back with me.'”
The highly transmissible strain of COVID is accounting for most new cases, which soared nationwide over the past two months.
“It wasn’t just the rates in Atlanta. The rates are getting worse here in Colorado,” Hoff said. “And who knows how many people you’re going to pass in the airport.”
Economist Adit Damodaran with the travel app Hopper says summer flight demand has flattened from pandemic highs, which is leading to lower prices.
“Airfare is on the downtrend,” Damodaran said.
But his service is finding – since July – one aspect of travel is up. There’s been a 33% increase in people buying cancelable tickets.
“People want to have that option to cancel if for any reason, you know, something happens, the situation develops in a way where they can’t take that trip,” Damodaran said.
Other potential passenger pitfalls are increased airline cancelations. In June and July, domestic air cancelations were above their 1% average, which translates to 10,000 cancelations in July alone.
Spirit, American and other carriers are suffering from short staffing, bad weather and other issues – leaving people like Starr concerned. To help manage her lupus, she takes immunosuppressants.
“I am a high-risk category,” Starr said. “So, I was a little concerned with what was going to happen during that travel. I was going to be exposed to a lot of people, a lot of, kind of, angry people on the airplanes didn’t really want to get involved with that.”
The worst-case scenario made her cancel her plans.
“Our hospitals are filling up so fast and we’re one of the largest medical centers in the nation,” Starr said. “I don’t know if there will be room if I have to end up going.”
Hoff’s ailing grandfather led her to change her mind.
“I’ve been keeping in the back of my mind, I might need to make a short-notice trip to see him,” Hoff said. “And if I take the risk for anything, you know, it should be family.”
Cotton did not purchase a cancelable ticket, but Southwest is giving her a credit toward her next flight. Hoff bought travel insurance and will be reimbursed through them.
For all the people canceling plans, a sizable number still plan to stick to their trips. 26% of people say they plan to travel in October, according to a recent survey.