New York, New Jersey Lost Most Flights In U.S. In July, A4A Says

Delta Air Lines 757-200
The analysis is bad news for Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, which both operate major hubs in the New York region.
Credit: Joe Pries

WASHINGTON—New analysis from Airlines for America (A4A) found that New York and New Jersey—two U.S. states hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic—also lost the most commercial airline service in the U.S. in July.

New York saw a 70% decline in passenger flights in July from a year ago, more than any other state, followed by New Jersey, which had 67% fewer departures. The massive drop-off in flights to the region can partly be explained by the 14-day quarantine order imposed in late June across the two states and Connecticut. The order restricted arrivals from more than 30 states, including California, Florida and Texas. 

New Jersey and New York also have the highest COVID-19 death rates in the country, at 179 and 169 deaths per 100,000 residents, respectively, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Rounding out the top five largest relative declines in scheduled passenger service were Rhode Island (61%), the District of Columbia (60%) and Virginia (60%), all located on the east coast. 

The average decline across all 50 states and several territories was 50%. 

While the service losses may seem large, they are actually smaller than the decline in passenger numbers in each state, suggesting there was still excess capacity despite the massive drops in scheduled departures. New York, for example, saw an 86% decline in passenger volumes in July, while New Jersey’s drop was 81%.

Montana, on the other hand, only saw 25% fewer scheduled passenger flights in July, the smallest decline in the U.S. The rural state has been mostly spared from the worst ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, while benefiting from increased interest in flights to outdoor leisure spots like Bozeman, Missoula and West Yellowstone. Other rural states like Alaska (37%), Utah (33%) and West Virginia (27%) lost significantly less flights than the national average.

The analysis is bad news for Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, which both operate major hubs in the New York region; the former at JFK and LaGuardia (LGA), and the latter at Newark (EWR). American Airlines, by contrast, is less dominant in the New York area, and its two largest hubs at Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT), and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) both saw scheduled flights drop by less than the national average in July.

United’s experience this summer at EWR demonstrates how sharply bookings can deteriorate in a region where interstate travel restrictions are enacted. The carrier’s year-over-year net bookings at EWR were down by 65% on June 16, marking a substantial improvement from being down 85% on June 1. By July 1, one week after the regional quarantine order took effect, bookings were back down 84%, completely erasing the recovery that occurred during the prior month.

Ben Goldstein

Based in Washington, Ben covers Congress, regulatory agencies, the Departments of Justice and Transportation and lobby groups.