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Holiday travel expected to rebound somewhat after weak year

Air travel was down, but road trips were up.

PHOENIX — We’re heading into what normally would be the busy travel months of the year, but what will holiday travel look like this year during the pandemic?

“You’d never get on a Delta plane until it’s gone through this thorough process of cleaning,” Tom Wettig, the station manager with Delta Airlines told journalists at Sky Harbor on Wednesday.

Delta Airlines showed off its expanded cleaning process in response to the pandemic, which included a fog machine and wiping down every seat, tray and armrest. They’re also creating space to social distance in the boarding lines and seating.  

“We are committed to keeping our middle seats open. So, you’ll never have to sit next to someone you’re not familiar with,” said Wettig.

While air travel has been down this year, Delta is anticipating a rise this holiday season.

“We’re adding flights. We’ll be back to 30 peak departure flights a day as we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s only down about three departures we had a year ago.”

Overall travel in September was the strongest of the year, according to Triple-A, but it was still down 12% from 2019.

However, road trips are up by 90%.

“These shorter closer to home trips seem to be the new trend during the coronavirus right now. As people try to determine what they’re comfortable doing,” said Aldo Vazquez, a spokesperson with AAA.

Travelers are also waiting longer to plan trips until they see how the pandemic is shaping up in other regions.

“It’s a very upside-down world right now and things are uncertain. Working with a travel agent right now is one of the best things you could do if you’re going to be traveling,” said Vazquez.

The good news for travelers is AAA is anticipating lower gas prices for the holiday travel season because the demand has been so low over the summer when more people worked from home.