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Air travel demand could snap back quicker than many in the industry are predicting, but dark clouds are forming in China for aircraft makers. From what coronavirus vaccines mean for airlines to how new FAA rules could jumpstart commercial drone activity, here’s what Forbes’ expert aviation contributors expect in the year ahead.

Ted Reed, aviation journalist who’s written for the Miami Herald and TheStreet

THE BIG TREND: Business travel will return and leisure travel will surge. The only real question is timing. I think travel will gradually revive in the second half of 2021, on a path to 80% of 2019 levels in the summer of 2022. As a sign of this recovery, American Airlines will be back to 700 daily departures from Charlotte for Thanksgiving 2021. For comparison, in 2020 American operated 460 average daily Charlotte departures during the 12-day holiday period.

WHAT TO WATCH: Delta Air Lines will place a 737 MAX order with Boeing at very favorable rates. Southwest will do well at its new destinations in Colorado Springs and Fresno. Delta will reap a benefit from keeping the middle seat empty longer than anyone else did, and will mention its revenue premium on every earnings call.

THE UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM: American will be very profitable in the third quarter.

THE BOLD PREDICTION: In the fourth quarter, the U.S. Department of Transportation will be under intense pressure to eliminate the mask mandate on aircraft. But DOT Secretary Buttigieg will declare, “I am letting the flight attendant unions make this call, because it is they who can make the best decision.”

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