Here’s how empty America’s biggest airports are

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Air travel internationally and domestically came to a screeching halt in April due to the spread of COVID-19. Data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) estimates U.S. airlines carried 96% fewer passengers in April 2020 than in April 2019.

Despite travel picking up some since April, we have yet to see a return to even half of the level of air traffic we saw pre-pandemic. Checkins through TSA at airports are down about 90% from last year, according to TSA data. Now that we’re in the thick of summer vacation season and the holidays aren’t too far off, many are left to wonder if things will return to normal — or at least a semblance of normal — in time to keep or make travel plans.

Disease experts are erring on the side of caution. When asked, a majority of epidemiologists said they wouldn’t be traveling by air for at least the next three to 12 months because of COVID-19. If consumers follow their lead, we may see people put off travel plans until 2021.

To contextualize the collapse in airline travel, we compared the number of people flying out of airports in the cities that get the most air traffic. Then we estimated how little they were spending on flying this quarter compared with one year ago.

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Methodology

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

In order to rank the cities where spending on airfare will drop the most, we looked at the 100 largest cities based on the number of passengers originating from airports in the city in the second quarter of 2019. We then multiplied that number by the average airfare cost for that location to estimate the airfare spent.

To estimate how much less will be spent to fly from those airports in Q2 2020, we multiplied that number by 5.7%, which is what the TSA estimates current traffic levels are compared with one year ago. We then ranked the cities based on the difference between last year’s spend and this year’s projected spend.

Data on airfare costs and passenger totals come from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and is for April 2019. Data on current passenger traffic comes from the Transportation Security Administration.

Here’s a countdown of the top 15 cities expecting the biggest declines in travelers this year.

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15. Detroit

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $382

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 4.2 million

Total spent on flying, Q2 2019: $1.605 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $91.5 million

Difference in spend: -$1.513 billion

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14. Minneapolis

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $363

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 4.5 million

Total spent on flying, Q2 2019: $1.618 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $92 million

Difference in spend: -$1.526 billion

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13. Newark, New Jersey

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $412

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 4.116 million

Total spent on flying out: $1.696 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $96.6 million

Difference in spend: -$1.599 billion

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12. Washington, D.C.

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $377

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2020: 5.142 million

Total spent on flying out: $1.939 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $110.5 million

Difference in spend: -$1.828 billion

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11. Phoenix

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $346

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 5.772 million

Total spent on flying out: $1.998 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $113.9 million

Difference in spend: -$1.884 billion

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10. Seattle

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $350

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 5.71 million

Total spent on flying out: $1.999 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $114 million

Difference in flying spend: -$1.885 billion

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9. San Francisco

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $420

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 5.37 million

Total spent on flying out: $2.256 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $128.6 million

Difference in flying spend: -$2.128 billion

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8. Charlotte, North Carolina

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $396

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 5.7 million

Total spent on flying out: $2.26 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $128.8 million

Difference in spend: -$2.13 billion

Image Credit: Philip Rozenski/iStock.

7. Houston

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $406

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 6.03 million

Total spent on flying out: $2.45 billion

Total expected spend for Q2, 2019: $139.6 million

Difference in spend: -$2.31 billion

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6. Denver

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $310

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 8.2 million

Total spent on flying out: $2.54 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $145 million

Difference in spend: -$2.4 billion

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5. Los Angeles

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $372

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 7.93 million

Total spent on flying out: $2.95 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $168 million

Difference in flying spend: -$2.78 billion

Image Credit: TriggerPhoto.

4. New York

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $428

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 7.47 million

Total spent on flying out: $3.2 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $182 million

Difference in spend: -$3.02 billion

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3. Dallas

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $401

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 8.02 million

Total spent on flying out: $3.2 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $183.4 million

Difference in spend: -$3.035 billion

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2. Chicago

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $346

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 11.5 million

Total spent on flying out: $3.98 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $227 million

Difference in spend: -$3.75 billion

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1. Atlanta

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Average ticket prices: $368

Number of people flying out of airport in Q2, 2019: 12.38 million

Total spent on flying out: $4.56 billion

Total expected spend for Q2 2020: $259.8 million

Difference in flying spend: -$4.298 billion

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What reduced travel means for travel rewards cards

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

Flying less often could mean you’ll have fewer opportunities to make use of credit card points or miles. Here are a few ways to think about adapting your credit card strategy:

Take advantage of new rewards and redemption opportunities

In response to travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders, some credit card issuers added new rewards categories and perks based on where consumers are now spending more money.

American Express, for example, is giving Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, Platinum, Gold and Blue cardholders 4X miles per dollar on U.S. supermarket spend through July 2020.

From now until the end of September, Chase Sapphire Reserve® Ultimate Rewards® points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for statement credits “to pay yourself back” for spending at groceries and restaurants, which includes takeout and delivery.

Double-check for new rewards opportunities. And consider alternative redemption options — such as shopping with points or redeeming for gift cards or statement credits — while you’re unable to travel.

Take stock of your travel cards with high annual fees

Staying grounded long term could mean you won’t earn and redeem enough points to offset your travel card’s annual fee, and some elite travel cards can cost several hundred dollars per year.

In that case, it may be time to consider downgrading to a less expensive travel card. Or think about switching to a flat-rate cashback card or category card that rewards you in areas like gas and groceries if you’ve seen an uptick in that spending.

Just keep in mind that some card issuers have restrictions on the type of cards you seek to downgrade or upgrade. Call your credit card provider for details.

Protect your miles or travel rewards from expiring

Don’t assume your rewards balance stash is yours forever; read the fine print. Some rewards expire if you don’t use the card or redeem rewards within a certain time frame. For example, American AAdvantage® miles are only active if you use the card or earn and redeem points once every 18 months, and you have to pay a fee to reactivate your expired rewards balance.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Bottom line

Here's how empty America's biggest airports are

The travel industry has yet to fully recover and there’s no telling when airlines will return to pre-COVID-19 air traffic. If you’re an avid traveler who’s now grounded, take a look at your cards to see if new rewards opportunities have opened up, or consider swapping your card for another one that’ll be more cost-effective during this time.

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Jul 14, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

This article originally appeared on CompareCards.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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