Nearly 4 in 10 American adults say they plan to fly with an airline in the next six months, suggesting a rebound is in order for an aviation sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a CivicScience survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults (ages 18+) in late April, 38% of respondents said they plan to fly with an airline between now and late October. That’s down substantially from pre-virus highs, when 56% of respondents reported having air travel plans within six months, but still a surprisingly healthy outlook given the current state of air travel.

And it seems that a certain daring portion of the U.S. population is leaning into the drop in demand to take advantage of lower prices. Five percent of American adults say they have bought airline tickets to take advantage of currently low prices, while another 1 in 5 adults say they may do so.

It appears that much of this mid-pandemic booking is likely driven by vacation planning. Eighty percent (80%) of those who say they’ve already booked low-cost flights during the pandemic say they’re planning a vacation for the year 2020. Most of those who say they may book flights soon also have a 2020 vacation in the cards (55%).

The groups that either have already booked air travel or are considering it tend to be younger, higher-income, and more male when compared with those who have no plans to book air travel right now.

Those who have booked or might book air travel were much less likely than others to have had hours / pay cut or to be “not working and not getting paid” due to coronavirus. Current airfare bargain-hunters were also less concerned than others about getting access to coronavirus testing, and much more likely than others to report spending more money than usual during the pandemic.

Taking a closer look at which airlines these would-be travelers feel the most favorable toward may give us a clearer picture of which air travel companies will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis the strongest. It appears the early flyers are more favorable than the general population toward Southwest and American, slightly more favorable to Delta, and less positive than the Gen Pop toward United.

Despite the devastating impact of coronavirus on air travel, it seems there is a segment of the population that is willing to risk the hazards of the pandemic in order to secure a bargain on airfare. Much of this activity is spurred by those vacationers still planning a getaway in 2020. The typical early flyer is a younger, wealthier male who has particularly positive feelings toward Southwest and American Airlines.