With COVID-19 restrictions loosening up all over the world, summer travel is at an all-time high. According to the U.S. Travel Association, an estimated 60% of the nation will be traveling this summer for vacation. It is also expected that Americans will travel the most in the next six months than at any point since the pandemic started in early 2020. However, just because travelers are ready does not mean airlines are prepared for the flight demands. Currently, the United States is facing the worst staffing and pilot crisis as 400,000 airline workers were furloughed or fired in the last two years due to the pandemic.
Over Memorial Day weekend, there were 2,500 canceled flights with many more delayed flights. The cancellations have gone throughout the following week, with 422 cancellations on Monday, 50 cancellations and 400 delays on Tuesday. Airlines blame poor weather, air traffic control issues, and staffing shortages across the board as to why the cancellations occurred. Alaska Airlines has canceled roughly 50 flights per day in the month of May. Earlier in the month of May, Alaska Airlines pilots have voted to possibly go on strike later this year if a market-based contract with better pay and labor protections is not put into place; if unresolved, the airlines will face major flight cancellations.
Surges in ticket prices will continue to rise in the next months due to embargos on oil from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. CEO Scott Kirby of United Airlines stated that if jet fuel prices continue at this rate, it will cost the airline $10 billion more than it spent in 2019. With hundreds of millions of people traveling this summer, it is safe to expect crowded airports, longer lines, sold-out flights, and a surge in ticket prices. My family and I just got back from a trip to Florida this weekend, and we experienced it all from high ticket prices, crowded airports, no pilots, flight cancellations, rerouted flights, and delays. Regardless of when or where you are flying this summer, expect some hiccups in travel but enjoy your vacation!