Pfizer’s announcement Monday of 90% efficacy in stage three clinical trials of their Covid 19 vaccine sent stocks higher and offered encouragement to an airline industry whose very survival is dependent on relief coming soon.
In August air travel was down 75% relative to last year and airlines’ cash reserves are dwindling as they try to accommodate a public still hesitant to fly during the pandemic. Aviation expert Joshua Verde says business travel is especially lucrative for the industry, and has been wounded by the sudden popularity of the cost-effective zoom meeting app while airlines try to hold on for a vaccine. “Hopefully that would go hand in hand with an increase in business travel, because the airlines really love that corporate travel, which is often times last minute purchases, higher fares, and a big portion of their revenue.
A National Geographic poll taken in June found 13% of respondents willing to board a flight this year, while only 24% said they would consider traveling in 2021. Airlines might not be able to hold on long enough for consumer confidence to return. Most airlines have a nine-month cash reserve and with no second stimulus package coming from Congress in the fall the promise of a vaccine on the horizon is the first good news they’ve had in a while. “I think that’s a very encouraging sign for airlines, and while I don’t think the recovery is going to be immediate it appears there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Verde.