The state of aviation this month was a tale of two stories; millions of Americans flooding airports to travel once again and the United States Government advising against it. From record-breaking traveler numbers since the start of the pandemic to airlines struggling to handle the increase in travel demand, the United States government strongly urged travelers to stay grounded in the face of the COVID-19 delta variant. As travel restrictions continue here on Earth, we momentarily turned our focus to the billionaire space race and the possibilities of space tourism.
Read on for the latest ‘Intel in the Air’ news roundup, where we keep our users informed and in the know on the industry’s latest happenings.
United States Government Advise Against Travel
With the highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant and cases rising among unvaccinated Americans, the U.S. State Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory against travel to the United Kingdom. On July 19th, the CDC raised the travel advisory for the United Kingdom from a level 3 to a level 4, meaning “very high level of COVID-19” along with an “avoid travel” warning. The U.S. State Department also raised their travel advisory to a level 4, meaning “do not travel.”
The U.S. State Department and CDC issued a similar travel advisory against travel to Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, and Kyrgyzstan on July 17th. The State Department raised their travel advisory to a level 4 “Do Not Travel”, while the CDC raised its travel advisory to level 4 “very high level of COVID-19” for these countries.
Following a senior-level White House meeting, an official reported the White House will not lift any existing travel restrictions at this point. And on Monday, White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, announced “Given where we are today with the delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point. She continued, “Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely to continue to increase in the weeks ahead.” It is inferred that airlines may have to wait until September or later for any possible revisions to the travel restrictions.
Travel Continues to Surge
Despite the travel advisories issued by the U.S. State Department, CDC, and the White House, the airline industry continues to see a surge in travelers. Over the 4th of July weekend, TSA reached record breaking numbers. TSA reported more than 10.1 million visits through airport checkpoints, the highest number of travelers airports have seen since the start of the pandemic. Not only that, TSA screened more people on July 1, 2021, with 2,147,090 travelers than they recorded on July 1, 2019, with only 2,088,760 travelers.
As some airlines are struggling to keep up with the recent travel demand, thousands of flights across the U.S. face long delays and cancellations due to labor shortages, as well as disruptive weather patterns.
The Challenges of Electric Aircraft
As the aviation industry shifts towards sustainability, more manufacturers are developing electric engines to move away from jet fuel. Despite years of developments on the industry side, civil aviation regulatory authorities have yet to actually certify one of these aircraft. According to Gary Horan, an aerospace controls systems specialist at the FAA, the group has been working on creating a special condition for electric engines to provide a guide to certification for electric engine manufacturers.
Looking Ahead to Space Tourism
On July 11, the world momentarily turned its focus to space tourism when Richard Branson flew to space on board Virgin Galactic. And only 9 days later, Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, successfully reached the edge of space on board his company’s Blue Origin rocket, ‘New Shepard’.
The next billionaire in line to visit space is Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and SpaceX, who is launching a civilian-led multi-day space flight sometime in the 4th quarter of the year. The latest billionaire space race is certainly opening up the door to the future of space tourism.
To read more about Jeff Bezos’ flight to space, check out our recent blog spotlight.