Travel industry meets new demands for summer getaways amid COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Many travel businesses are emerging from a downturn to meet a demand from people who are tired of being stuck at home.

With the July 4th weekend upon us, some travelers are returning to the skies.

United Airlines announced their August schedules on Wednesday, adding 25,000 flights systemwide for a total of about 300 additional daily flights out of O'Hare.

"We're far below where we expected to be at the beginning of the year, but we are a little higher than we were in June," said Josh Earnest of United Airlines. "A little higher than we were in July, so step by step, we are slowly starting to improve, so we're going to continue to watch demand, particularly as we see flare ups around the country. We're being pretty cautious."

For now most of these added flights are domestic, with international travel bans making it difficult for Americans looking to leave the country. But even with this modest increase, AAA says air travel will only represent about 3% of summer travel this year, with most people taking to the roads as they look to get out of the house for the first time in months.

"What we're seeing in Chicago is that people are looking to southwest Michigan," said Sam Randall of Airbnb. "Twenty percent of the bookings for this Fourth of July weekend are in rural areas outside of big cities, and I think southwest Michigan really fits the bill for Chicago residents."

Airbnb host Hannah Heyn relies on her four southwest Michigan listings for most of her family's income. After a slew of cancellations in the spring, she is now mostly booked up through the summer.

"It's really encouraging. I love being booked solid after having those cancellations," Heyn said. "We don't have a large population over here and we have a lot of wide open spaces and lots of nature so it's kind of ready for people."

AAA says that most people who would have traveled by car this year are still doing so, with most of the nearly 15% decline they're seeing coming from a lack of air and rail travel.
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