A crisp breeze and falling leaves usually signal consumers to start thinking about their holiday plans. For those who don’t experience a typical autumn, maybe it’s a voicemail from Mom asking how many to expect for Thanksgiving dinner.

This season, there is much more uncertainty in the air. In a CivicScience survey of more than 3,300 U.S. adults, 67% said they would not be traveling for the holidays this year.

Americans aged 25 to 34 show the highest likelihood to travel for the holidays this year, which aligns with previous analysis of that age group who has shown the least amount of concern about public spaces than other generations.

Airlines have suffered immeasurable losses during the pandemic and it’s clear holiday travel won’t be what it’s been in the past. At this point in time, 6% of the general population have purchased flights for holiday travel.

Among those decided holiday travelers, 17% have purchased a flight or intend to while 68% aren’t planning on flying to their destination. 

In the past, CivicScience has identified a correlation between political leanings and perspectives on the pandemic, yet air travel might be the issue that softens the usually stark divide. Rather than over- or under-indexing Moderates and Liberals by leagues, Conservatives have indicated only a slightly higher incidence rate of purchasing (or intent to purchase) a plane ticket for the upcoming holiday. 

Airline Preferences

Looking ahead to the holidays and beyond, Southwest and Delta are the two most popular airline choices for Americans who say they will fly in the next 6 months.

Delta flyers, when compared to Southwest flyers, are 36% more likely to believe the effects of the pandemic in the U.S. will be present for a maximum of 2 more months. Southwest flyers, on the other hand, are more likely to believe the effects will stick around for 4 or more months.

Despite differing beliefs about the effects of the coronavirus, both sets of travelers are planning to journey by plane, a possible silver lining for the future of airlines.

Bunking with Family and Friends

If folks do travel, nearly half say they would stay with friends or family while 28% say they’d probably spend the night at a hotel. Airbnb (or another rental property) only claimed 11% of holiday travelers looking for lodging.

Staying with friends and family over the holiday is a logical plan for accommodations given many travel seasonally for the explicit reason of quality time with their loved ones. But it’s worth noting that Airbnb users and intenders have shown a steady decline that does not seem to coincide with the coronavirus pandemic in the USA, although it certainly didn’t help.

Lodging aside, it’s clear that a significant portion of U.S. adults are going to be moving around during the holidays. And with 7% of holiday travelers intending to fly, and another 18% undecided, there is still room to improve for airlines before the turkey goes into the oven and the stockings are hung over the fireplace.