Renting a car – if you find one – will likely cost you more than in years past. And hotel prices are on the rise nationwide, too. So much for relaxation.
What’s going on?
Your summer travel woes are (probably) not your fault. In the sky, the number of employees in airlines, especially pilots, is much lower than it was before the pandemic. And on the road, the shortage of available cars has driven rental car prices up twofold.
Much of these disruptions can be traced back to Covid-19.
It starts with ordering. Airlines and hotels anticipate record travel this summer as Americans who have delayed flights during the pandemic return to vacation.
Demand meets short employment. Although airlines received $54 billion in federal aid during the height of Covid to avoid forced layoffs, they have fewer employees after offering takeovers and early retirement packages to cut staff and save money.
Then there is hypertrophy. The Consumer Price Index, the government’s leading inflation measure, estimates that overall prices rose 37.8% in May compared to the previous year, and an increase of 21.7% compared to May of 2019, before the pandemic spread.
Remember, in the midst of the outbreak, the Federal Reserve implemented emergency stimulus measures to prevent financial markets from crashing. The central bank lowered interest rates to nearly zero and began pumping tens of billions of dollars each month into the markets by buying up corporate debt.
Rental cars also have an epidemic problem. During the height of the pandemic, the industry sold more than half a million vehicles, about a third of its combined fleet, just to generate the cash they needed to survive the crisis. After a year of heavy losses, car rental companies had trouble rebuilding their fleets to meet demand, sending prices skyrocketing before they filled the tank.
Hotels too. You will not feel comfortable when you reach your destination either. Remember the issue of pent-up travel demand? This bumps into a limited number of places to stay and results in some amazing prices.
What is the Biden administration doing?
Buttigieg asked chief executives to talk about plans to prevent and respond to disruptions over the July 4th weekend and beyond, the source said.
What do the airlines say?
US airlines want you to know they are trying. Airlines for America, the group that represents major US airlines, told CNN in a statement Thursday that it is making “every effort possible to help ensure smooth travel this weekend.”
“US airlines face a range of challenges—including weather, carrier-level staffing and the federal government—and are doing everything they can to help ensure smooth travel this weekend and year-round. As always, we work closely and collaboratively with The federal government is up to date with challenges, including bad weather, so adjustments can be made to schedules and airlines can communicate with travelers as soon as possible.”
Members of the group’s airlines are taking various approaches to reduce summer flight disruptions, including reducing the number of flights and allowing passengers to rebook without fees for off-peak periods.
How long will it take?
he is writing: In almost every case, the problem is that too many experienced people have been abandoned during the pandemic — either laid off or given voluntarily — and that airlines, airports and other key parts of the aviation system have not hired and qualified enough people to replace them.
This qualification point is important. As airlines and airports well know, there is a whole process involved in obtaining a security clearance for someone to be allowed to work on a plane or at an airport gate.
In other words, travel will be difficult for some time.
How do you prepare?
The earlier the better. Taking a flight that departs early in the day helps avoid the cascading effect of delays and cancellations. Bad weather is also likely to affect subsequent flights.
Leave enough time for unmissable events. Don’t travel on the day of an important event such as a wedding. Plan to arrive at least one day early.
Request a hotel voucher if your flight is cancelled. If you can’t get a same-day flight, it’s a good idea to ask for a meal or hotel vouchers. In many cases, such as weather events, airlines are not required to provide them, but it is worth asking.
Most importantly, stay considerate. Don’t let go of your frustration with the customer service staff. They don’t make operations decisions.
CNN’s Gregory Wallace, Chuck Johnston, and Ramisha Maarouf contributed to this report.