Travel nightmares can erase August vacation plans
The 31-year-old doctor rushed to find a ticket the same day, but declined the rate of $ 1,800. She ended up using her sister’s hotel voucher to stay an extra night and shelled out over $ 450 for a trip home on July 19 the next day. Bradley said she still isn’t sure if she will recover the cost of her canceled flight from JetBlue.
If you’re planning a vacation during the traditional summer peak season, Bradley’s nightmare could be yours. Thousands of passengers faced similar issues when they took to the skies after a year or more spent near home. For a whole host of reasons, August could be even worse.
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Capacity constraints for some airlines, labor shortages across the hospitality industry, coupled with growing demand and unprecedented weather conditions are weighing on summer vacation plans. Add to that the delta variant of the coronavirus and its disastrous spread across the world and Americans are going to have a frustrating time.
Southwest Airlines Co. and American Airlines Group Inc. cleaned about 3% of their flights in the first six days of July, while more than 33% were delayed, aviation data company FlightAware revealed. The annual industry average in 2019 hovered around 1.8% for cancellations and 18.7% for delays, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
“These jerks make the summer travel season a little more difficult,” said George Ferguson, senior airline analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “It’s not a terrible experience, but it’s not a great experience.”
Many in the United States might just take a deep breath and try to run away anyway, given the number of weddings, vacations, and family reunions that Covid-19 has thwarted. Data from the Transportation Security Administration shows that the crowds at airport security checkpoints have increased steadily this year, with more than 2.2 million people on July 18 alone, a figure almost in line with normal times.
Planes were 88.8% full on average in the seven days ending July 18, up from 89.8% in the same period in 2019, according to industry group Airlines for America. However, the maintenance required on planes that had been parked during the pandemic meant that some carriers did not have enough planes to meet demand when the outbreak started.
In addition, unprecedented heat, forest fires and storms hit huge swathes of the country, making thefts more unpredictable. JetBlue spokesperson Derek Dombrowski said weather conditions were the main cause of operational issues, and Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish also attributed recent delays and cancellations to the elements. On July 19, smoke from massive fires in the West delayed arrivals at Denver International Airport, the nation’s fifth busiest airfield.
New York resident Sophie Vigeland and her boyfriend Griffin Donnelly traveled to Athens in early July, also visiting the whitewashed neighborhood of Santorini villages and the historic Forum of Rome. They were due home on a Sunday, but United Airlines canceled their flight and they could not get seats until two days later, she said.
This meant spending an additional $ 1,000 to cover additional hotel nights, meals, and Covid-19 testing, given the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s requirement that all air passengers entering the U.S. United presents results not older than 72 hours.
While Vigeland said she felt lucky to have traveled, she was frustrated that she had not received any assurances from United that she would be cured given the additional expense. In an emailed statement, United spokeswoman Leigh Schramm said the flight was canceled due to extreme weather conditions at its destination, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, an independent factor. of the power of the carrier. Accommodations are provided in most cases for customers facing controllable delays, the company added.
Still, the delay resulted in additional financial stress. âWe saved up for the holidays,â Vigeland said. But “we had planned 10 days, not 13”.
Meanwhile, a shortage of workers linked to the pandemic is adding to the woes of travelers. The airline industry employed 12.6% fewer people in May compared to 2019, according to the latest figures from the US government. In June, American Airlines canceled 950 flights in the first two weeks of July, citing poor weather conditions and a shortage of manpower, saying that in some cases storm delays had exhausted its group of pilots. reserve.
Sarah Jantz, a spokeswoman for the carrier, said on July 19 that the changes represented less than 1% of flights and that the trip completion rate had improved.
Airlines are working to retrain pilots who fell behind in their certifications while planes were immobilized and have recalled flight attendants on voluntary leave. But many of their contractors are struggling to recruit, according to Laura Moran, spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union, which represents airport staff responsible for, among other things, cleaning, security and baggage.
For Moran, it’s about paying. workers such as cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants often earn around $ 12 an hour and don’t always have benefits, according to a 2016 SEIU survey. Moran said rates for many remain around these levels, although workers at airports such as San Francisco International and John F. Kennedy in New York City received wage increases.
âAll of these little frustrations aren’t because workers don’t want to work,â said Moran, communications director of a campaign to organize airport staff. âPeople want to work when they are paid fairly. “
Then there is the continuing threat of the coronavirus. In a Deloitte LLP survey released in May, 95% of travelers ranked ticket prices as their top priority when booking flights, but 91% also said they chose a carrier based on security protocols. Covid concerns are pushing people to choose non-stop flights over those with stopovers, as well as to seek more flexibility with travel, said Ramya Murali, director of the company.
Unlike last summer, when the South and West were hit by the second wave of infections in the United States, worries about the viruses are probably not enough to tear their plans apart, according to the senior research analyst. of Cowen Inc., Helane Becker. However, they could lead to a larger-than-usual drop in travel after Labor Day on September 6, she said.
Additionally, with the delta variant dominating what is now the start of a fifth wave of infection, those who have not yet made plans for the next month may think twice, depending on what. coming weeks bring.
Bradley has already made up his mind, but it wasn’t because of the variant. She and her future husband, Michael Murn, are getting married in September and were thinking of flying somewhere this summer. But after his bachelor debacle, they’ll likely just take a road trip to New Jersey.
Even if they encountered traffic, she said, “we don’t have to worry about this kind of chaos.”
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