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It’s a travel season like no other.
If you are looking for a summer vacation, you will probably find yourself in a chaotic web of canceled flights, expensive rental cars or fully booked hotels. The prospect of getting from point A to point B without an expensive headache may seem almost impossible.
Consider this: According to FlightAware flight tracking data, 639 flights within, to or from the United States were canceled and 5,837 were delayed as of Wednesday.
Delta Air Lines alone trimmed about 100 flights a day from its July schedule to “minimize disruption,” and issued a traveler waiver on July 4 as it prepares for passenger numbers “not seen since the pandemic.” were seen”.
Renting a car – if you can find one – will likely cost you more than it has in years past. And hotel prices are also rising nationwide. So much for relaxation.
Your summer travel problems are (probably) not your fault. In the air, airlines have significantly fewer employees, especially pilots, than before the pandemic. And on the road, a lack of available vehicles has pushed up rental car prices by double digits.
Add in record high inflation with notable demand for leisure travel and you have a recipe for trouble.
Much of this turbulence can be traced back to Covid-19.
It starts with the demand. Airlines and hotels are forecasting record travel this summer as Americans who have postponed travel during the pandemic head back on vacation.
Demand meets staff shortage. Despite receiving $54 billion in federal support during the height of Covid to avoid involuntary layoffs, airlines have had fewer employees after airlines offered takeovers and early retirement packages to cut staff and save money.
Shortage of staff creates problems. In bad weather, understaffed air traffic control centers or sick staff, operations can quickly collapse.
Then there is inflation. The Consumer Price Index, the government’s main measure of inflation, estimates that total fares rose 37.8% year-on-year in May and 21.7% compared to pre-pandemic May 2019.
Keep in mind that amid the turmoil of the outbreak, the US Federal Reserve rolled out emergency stimulus measures to keep financial markets from bogging down. The central bank cut interest rates to near zero and began pumping tens of billions of dollars into the markets each month by buying corporate bonds.
In doing so, the bank likely avoided a financial meltdown. But maintaining this easy money policy has also fueled inflation, which is why your plane ticket will cost a lot more than it used to.
Rental cars also have a pandemic problem. At the peak of the pandemic, the industry was selling more than half a million cars, about a third of their combined fleets, just to earn the money they needed to survive the crisis. After a year of deep losses, rental car companies struggled to rebuild their fleets to meet demand, resulting in exorbitant prices before you even fill up the tank.
Hotels too. You won’t feel much relief either when you reach your goal. Do you remember the topic of travel jams? This results in a limited number of places to stay and at staggering prices.
According to AAA, the price of an average hotel room is 23% higher than last year.
Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in a private call, urged airline executives to review their flight schedules and take other steps to mitigate the impact of summer flight cancellations, a source familiar with the call told CNN’s Gregory Wallace.
The source said Buttigieg has asked CEOs to discuss plans to prevent and respond to disruptions over the July 4 holiday weekend and beyond.
US airlines want you to know they’re trying. Airlines for America, the group that represents major U.S. airlines, told CNN in a statement Thursday that they are “making every effort to ensure smooth air travel this weekend.”
“U.S. airlines are managing a range of challenges — including weather and staffing at the airline and federal government levels — and are making every effort to ensure smooth air travel this weekend and throughout the year. As always, we are working closely and cooperatively with the federal government to manage challenges, including inclement weather, to allow schedule adjustments to be made and airlines to communicate with travelers as early as possible,” the statement said.
Members of the group’s airlines are taking different approaches to reducing flight disruptions over the summer, including reducing the number of flights and allowing passengers to rebook for off-peak times without incurring fees.
But critics say airlines should have foreseen many of these problems ahead of the summer travel season.
Read this article by aviation journalist John Walton.
He writes: In almost all cases, the problem is that too many experienced employees have been laid off during the pandemic – either laid off or voluntarily laid off – and airlines, airports and other key parts of the aviation system have not hired and qualified enough staff to replace them.
This qualifying point is important. As airlines and airports know all too well, there is a whole process involved in getting someone the kind of security pass that will allow them to work on an airplane or at an airport gate.
In other words, travel will be difficult for a while.
If you have summer travel plans, you are not doomed. CNN’s travel team has put together handy tips to help you get where you’re going if you need to fly.
The sooner the better. By catching a flight that departs early in the day, you can avoid the cascading effect of delays and cancellations. Bad weather is also more likely to affect later flights.
Leave cushion time for events not to be missed. Don’t travel on the day of an important event like a wedding. Plan to arrive at least a day earlier.
Ask for a hotel voucher if your flight is cancelled. If you can’t catch a flight that same day, it’s worth asking about meal or hotel vouchers. In many cases, e.g. For example, in the case of weather events, airlines are not required to provide them, but it is worth asking.
Most importantly, stay considerate. Don’t take your frustration out on the customer service representatives. They don’t make the operational decisions.