As business travel bookings plummet in the economic recession, the United States airlines are looking hungrily at the summer vacation travel season for a bump in their leisure bookings.
That may be wishful thinking, however.
Carriers must fight the uphill battle of persuading people to fork over cash for vacations at a time when job losses mount and personal investments like homes and retirement plans shed value.
"Everybody is wondering if there is another shoe to drop," said Rick Seaney, chief executive of air fare research site Farecompare.com.
Seaney said that while there is no reliable way to gauge forward airline bookings, evidence suggests a gloomy outlook for leisure travel this year.
Travellers are booking trips closer to their departures, which indicates more shopping and less buying, he said. Furthermore, airlines now offer deeply discounted tickets in hopes of luring thrifty passengers.
The sales, which last much longer this year than last year, typically shave 25 per cent to 50 per cent off the high fares of last summer, Seaney said.