Adobe Digital Economy Index: Domestic flight bookings back to pre-pandemic levels

Flight into Vacation.

Image Source: assetseller, Adobe Stock.

The Adobe Digital Economy Index continues to track the airline recovery, with new data on U.S. domestic flight bookings online. Adobe provides the most comprehensive report of its kind, measuring direct consumer transactions from 6 of the top 10 U.S. airlines and over 150 billion web visits, reporting on online spend, booking growth, pricing trends, and top destinations domestically.

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel virtually came to a standstill overnight. By June 2021, as restrictions eased and vaccinations ramped up, demand picked up: In that month, domestic flight bookings were only 5 percent below the comparable period in 2019. But with the sudden rise of new COVID-19 variants, the airline recover was all but derailed. Coming into the new year however, consumers have turned a corner.

Domestic flight bookings in February 2022 drove $6.6 billion in online spend, 6 percent above 2019 levels (compared to February 2019 spend). This represents a 18 percent increase from the month prior (January 2022, $5.6 billion). It is well above what consumers spent over the holidays (November 2021, $5.5 billion; December 2021, $3.2 billion) when concerns over Omicron dampened demand. In all of 2021, domestic flights drove $56 billion in spend online, 57 percent more than 2020 but 26 percent less than 2019.

As demand picks up, prices have been rising as well. In February 2022, prices were 5 percent higher compared to 2019 levels. Contrast this with January 2022, where prices were 3 percent lower than 2019 levels. Inflation in ticket prices have been a contributor to the uptick in online spending: While revenue is up 6 percent versus 2019 levels, as cited previously, actual bookings are up just 4 percent.

“The Adobe Digital Economy Index has been monitoring the airline recovery on a weekly basis, and in the second week of February 2022, we saw domestic bookings and revenue surpass 2019 levels for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst, Adobe Digital Insights. “This is a major turning point, and it shows a level of consumer confidence we’ve not seen in many months.”

Based on arrival sites, Adobe is sharing the top 10 domestic destinations for those traveling from March 2022 to May 2022. For the first time, Belgrade in Montana (home to the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport) tops the list, followed by 2021 favorites in Florida and Hawaii. The top 10 include: Belgrade, Montana — Fort Myers, Florida — Kailua-Kona, Hawaii — Palm Springs, California — Kahului, Hawaii — Orlando, Florida — Tampa, Florida — Lihue, Hawaii — Pensacola, Florida — Honolulu, Hawaii. (Top 10 destinations are based on lift and not volume).

Looking farther out, domestic bookings have not yet picked up for Memorial Day weekend travel: Bookings are down 18 percent over the comparable weekend in 2019. Consumers are indeed planning ahead however, with bookings for Summer travel (June 2022 to August 2022) only down 3 percent over 2019.

Methodology: The Adobe Digital Economy Index offers the most comprehensive set of insights of its kind, based on analysis through Adobe Analytics that covers over 150 billion visits to travel, leisure and hospitality sites — measuring transactions from 6 of the top 10 U.S. airlines (more than any other technology company).