Demand for international flying has fallen in recent weeks since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.
Global flight bookings made in the three weeks after October 7th, when the conflict started, were 20% below the 2019 levels, according to ForwardKeys, a travel industry data company.
Before the attack, bookings were tracking at 15% below 2019 levels, which was the last year before COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the industry.
This reduction in demand ends a recent period of high growth for airlines, which saw high passenger demand and higher air fares contribute to higher profits for airlines.
Flights to the Middle East have taken the biggest hit, with a 26% fall, taking them from 13% above 2019 levels to 13% below, ForwardKeys reports.
Tickets to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt have seen significant falls too.
Bookings on US-outbound flights, the FT reports, have taken a significant hit with a 10% drop, taking them from 6% above 2019 levels to 4% below.
An industry executive speaking to FT, said this is expected, as US tourist demands tends to decrease during times of geopolitical uncertainty, a trend that stretches back to the Gulf War in the 1990s.
This flight data offers a first indication of how the geopolitical uncertainty caused by the Israel-Hamas conflict is impacting airlines.
Autumn is a busy season for business travel, a lucrative revenue earner for airlines, so it remains to be seen whether the geopolitical uncertainty will impact business travel as well as leisure travel.
United Airlines in their earnings estimate released in mid-October said that a halt to flights to Tel Aviv and higher jet fuel will impact profits in the last three months of 2023.
United has the most flights to Israel out of all US-based airlines, with flights from Washington DC, Newark, New Jersey and San Francisco, which account for 2% of United’s capacity, according to CNBC.
This fourth-quarter estimate for United was “bleak and worse than our estimates” wrote Helane Becker, airline analyst at TD Cowen in a note after United’s earnings estimate was released.
Not all airlines are pessimistic about the uncertainty in the Middle East.
Emirates Airlines’ CEO speaking to CNBC said he expected bookings to be robust.
This confidence was no doubt boosted by Emirates’ recent purchase of 95 Boeing aircraft for $52 billion at the 2023 Dubai Airshow.