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Air travel increases with vaccine accessibility


TAMPA, Fla. — When it comes to COVID vaccines and travel, airlines experts say vaccines are making a difference. 

“We’re grateful, we are happy to have our passengers back,” said Paul Hartshorn Jr. with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and American Airlines.

Hartshorn has been a flight attendant himself for more than 20 years.

Around Thanksgiving, airlines were seeing thousands of early retirements, involuntary furloughs, and personal leaves for flight attendants.

“We’re seeing a rebound of customer demand as more people become vaccinated, more people are looking to travel. I think there’s tremendous pent up demand out there for travel,” he said.

It’s a good sign.

Hartshorn says constant lobbying in Washington has made a difference as well.

They were able to extend the Payroll Support Program under the CARES Act, along with securing a 3rd extension to protect them through September.

“Currently we now in the May month, we have all of our flight attendants back to active status, the ones that were furloughed involuntarily, we are calling back some that are out on leave voluntarily,” Hartshorn said.

Here at home in Tampa, things are also looking up.

“What we’re seeing right is between 50,000 to 60,000 passengers a day. That’s about 30 to 40 percent less than what we typically see this time of year pre-Covid. However, it is way up from what we saw a year ago when we saw about a 90 percent loss in business,” said Emily Nipps with Tampa International Airport.

The push for international travel is also increasing across the board.

Caribbean-Mexico travel is rebounding close to 2019 levels.

“Some of the countries abroad are also opening up to vaccinated travelers. So that’s kind of changing the way people think of travel,” Nipps said.

“We want to get through the rest of this safely so we can come out on the other side and kick up the international flights and get back to where we should be,” said Hartshorn.

With the increase in travelers, TPA has also opened up almost all of their shops and restaurants.

They’re looking to hire in a big way to get those positions filled.

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