Domestic air travel doesn’t appear to have been an important vector for the spread

Fear of flying and catching COVID-19 led to a massive decline in air travel in 2020. But an interesting question emerges: How much did air travel contribute to the early, and uneven, spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.?

In a previous study currently undergoing peer review, we looked at the effect of air travel from Italy and China on the early spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. and found while flights from Italy were an important source of exposure, ones from China were not.

Experts have offered many explanations for why the virus spread so unevenly in the U.S. and elsewhere, ranging from population density to public transportation.

We are economics researchers with experience studying air travel. In a recent study that is beginning the peer review process, we examine whether air travel from early COVID-19 hot spots in the U.S. spread the virus to other parts of the country. The answer is no.


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