As the United States prepares for what some in the industry are calling “airmageddon,” travelers are bracing for a potential collapse at airlines, airports, security and customs checkpoints, not to mention hotels and hotel services.
AAA expects nearly 42 million Americans to take a car trip of 50 miles or more.
But the real crisis: 3.5 million people are expected to travel on the weekend.In some markets, it has quadrupled. Hotel prices have increased by a whopping 23% since 2021.
The number of flight cancellations rose to more than 600 on Saturday, while the number of delays exceeded 4,300. According to FlightAwarean organization that tracks flight data.
And all of this is happening at a time when major airlines and travel stakeholders are sparring. Airlines For the delay, the FAA claims that airlines are working on flight schedules they can’t physically support, To increase workloads and flying hours that they claim may be a safety issue, passenger complaints against airlines rose 300% during 2019, and the US Department of Transportation is considering emergency rule-making options.
London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports have preemptively canceled flights, and government officials are considering introducing increased prices for planes scheduled to operate during peak hours.
Airlines on Saturday worked to deliver baggage to passengers around the world after a technical failure left at least 1,500 bags stranded at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, the latest of several tangled movements that have plagued travelers this summer.
The airport’s baggage sorting system experienced a technical glitch on Friday that caused 15 flights to leave without baggage, leaving about 1,500 bags on the ground, according to the airport’s operator. The operator said the airport handled about 1,300 total flights on Friday.
Union activists said many passengers flew without their bags, apparently due to the effects of the blows from the original avalanche.
It came as airport workers at French airports went on strike to demand more employment and more wages to keep pace with soaring global inflation. Because of the strike, aviation authorities canceled 17% of flights from Paris airports on Friday morning, and another 14% were canceled Saturday.
Passengers on canceled flights were alerted days before their flights. The scene in Charles de Gaulle on Saturday was crowded but typical of the first weekend in July, when the summer travel season begins in France.
Unions plan to continue the strike on Sunday, but no flights have been canceled so far. They threatened to renew the strike next weekend if negotiations with the company’s management did not succeed in finding a compromise.
Passengers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, Frankfurt and Dublin have experienced hours-long queues, thousands of flight cancellations, and thousands of bags lost and missed.
In the US, the Department of Transportation reports that airlines have lost or mishandled 21% more bags this year than last.
Earlier this week, Delta issued an unprecedented July 4 “air waiver” to its customers, citing “operational challenges.” The airline admitted it expects trouble supporting its schedule – which means it doesn’t have enough pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers and other staff to staff all of their scheduled flights, among other challenges – over the next four days, and encouraged travelers to do so. Rebooking for other flights and other days without any fees or penalties. The airline was essentially asking its passengers not to travel. No other US airline has yet matched this waiver.
Many US airlines continue to blame employees at air traffic control centers, whose workers are FAA employees. But the US Department of Transportation says the majority of airline delays have nothing to do with center staff. Airlines are also grounding dozens of regional 50-seat planes because they don’t have pilots to fly them — and because current fuel prices, the planes are unprofitable to operate. Translation: Secondary market cities in the United States, such as Ithaca, New York, and Toledo, Ohio, will be down sharply — or in some cases, with no airlines by Labor Day.
In the US, the Department of Transportation is considering financial consequences for airlines that publish unrealistic flight schedules — and the rules may compel airlines to show they can support flights with appropriate staffing before allowing them to schedule those flights. They’re also talking about charging airlines more for scheduling peak flights at 8am or 5pm – known as congestion pricing – as well as considering requiring airlines to reschedule 30% of their flights to depart between 8pm and 12am, because Night flights experience fewer delays.
But while airlines cancel flights and cut frequency, Amtrak is a bright spot for travel, adding to their schedules and running trains more frequently as an increasing number of passengers are turning to trains for short and medium-haul trips. And while AAA reports the total number of Americans expected to drive this weekend, they haven’t estimated how many people will be in each car – and that number has increased, too, as the cost of airline tickets has again risen exponentially. Not only will it be crowded on the roads – it will be crowded with cars.
A second glimmer of hope: Future flight, hotel and resort reservations after September 15th fell off a cliff. One reason is seasonality – kids go back to school, parents go back to work. But the high cost of travel for the summer of 2022 may mean that for many Americans, when September comes, they will be traveling for the rest of the year. Those looking for better airline tickets and more available seats for frequent flyer awards may find more affordable bookings from September through December 15.