Let’s not kid ourselves: if last week was any indicator, summer air travel is going to be even rougher than we thought. After a weekend of flight delays and cancellations, you’d be wise to start thinking about Plan B and Plan C when it comes to summer travel.
A Grim Summer Of Air Travel Is Already Upon Us
I was speaking to a friend on Saturday, who shared of his daughter’s travails. She was at the airport in Dallas (DFW) trying to reaching Detroit (DTW). On Thursday, her flight was cancelled. She was rebooked for Friday. On Friday, her flight was cancelled. She was rebooked for Saturday. On Saturday, well…you guessed it. She finally made it on Sunday, only three days late.
I spent much of the week on the phone with airlines dealing with Award Expert clients who have faced delays and cancellations. It has been excruciatingly difficult to get people rebooked. For example, a client wast traveling from Pittsburgh (PIT) to Washington (IAD) to Zagreb (ZAG) on United Airlines to Athens and then connecting on Aegean to to Zagreb.
His inbound flight was delayed by an hour due to Air Traffic Control and then there was no ground staff to guide his aircraft in. As a result, he missed his connecting flight and called me for rebooking options.
Should have been easy enough, right? We’re talking about Washington Dulles, a major transatlantic hub. And when you hit irregular operations like that, you only need space on the flight, not award space. But every single flight was booked solid. Austrian was booked. All Lufthansa flights were booked. Amazingly, every United transatlantic flight departing that day and the following day were zeroed out: totally sold (and indeed, quite oversold).
I managed to turn lemons into lemonade by getting him a more direct routing via Frankfurt, but it was a nail-biter. I had to waitlist him for United’s late Frankfurt flight and hope for no-shows on a flight that was oversold. Thankfully, he was one of three standbys to make the flight, with over 30 left behind.
Others have not been so fortunate. One client abandoned her trip after a series of delays meant she would not make it to her meeting.
A Rough Weekend Of Travel
According to date from FlightAware, yesterday was just a mess for U.S. carriers:
- Delta Air Lines: 250 cancellations, 702 delays
- American Airlines: 96 cancellations, 892 delays
- United Airlines: 92 cancellations, 432 delays
- Southwest: 29 cancelations, 1105 delays
Folks, this won’t get much better unless airlines dramatically scale back their schedules in advance. That would push prices even higher, but would hopefully alleviate some of the unbelievably poor performance we’ve observed not just over the weekend, but over the last several weeks.
Airlines are trying desperately to hire more people in virtually every department. But in a tight labor market, this has proven a formidable challenge.
What Is Causing These Flight Delays And Cancellations?
Airlines are quick to blame weather when flight delays and cancellations occur, but the true culprit is not the weather but that airlines have left no room for error in their operations. Like a rope stretched too thin, eventually it snaps under pressure.
Carriers may not have been able to fire workers during the pandemic thanks to taxpayer-funded payroll support, but that did not stop airlines from offering voluntary separation packages that led to thousands of early retirements or career changes.
When demand came rushing back, carriers found themselves not ready. Pilots were not trained due to aircraft fleet changes during the pandemic, which proved a huge stumbling block early on, but there are shortages across the industry in virtually every role. When employees call in sick, there may not be a replacement for them. That leads to flight delays and cancellations.
Thus, one storm can cripple the entire system. But don’t blame the storm.
How Can You Prepare For The Inevitable Delays And Cancellations?
The best advice I can give you is to be flexible. Yet I know that doesn’t help many who are on tight schedules due to limited vacation time.
The second best advice I can give you is to have back-up options booked. Yes, hold space on other carriers in case your flight is cancelled. Yet I know that doesn’t help many who don’t want to spend the miles or money on this, which is quite an investment this summer.
So what can you do? I’ve continued to be impressed, overall, with Twitter response times versus call centers. Exercise that option immediately, not as as an option of last resort.
Second, try to make the life of the gate agent or reservation agent easier by offering an alternative. As you wait to speak to an agent, research options and try to have something ready to propose. It will save you time and make it easier for the agent to get you rebooked and on the way.
Don’t Take Out Your Anger On Airline Staff
Finally, I cannot help but to mention that the front-line worker is not responsible for your delay or cancellation. Feel free to write a scathing note to the CEO blaming corporate greed, but don’t take out your anger on the gate agent or flight attendant. They are simply trying to do their job as best they can and believe me, they hate delays more than you do.
It is already shaping up to be a brutal summer of air travel. I’ve never seen airlines so crowded and flights so full…we are in uncharted waters. I don’t see any relief in sight for the delays and cancellations so many of us have experienced over the preceding weeks. All we can do is be as flexible and patient as possible, which does not solve the problem but can prepare us to take the bad news better when it (inevitably) happens.
It’s funny that the airlines lobbied for the elimination of masks and pre arrival testing because they were hurting ticket sales, and now they can’t handle the customers they have
Airfares are too low. Double or triple them and the problem fixes itself.
Really??? I used to pay less than $200 to fly from Minneapolis to Chicago. Last week I paid $850. This week some days were $1,100. It is a 50 min flight. It used to be a flight every hour. Now they are offering 4 to 5 a day. Last one yesterday from Chicago was at 5:30pm. No evening flight? Really? Denver used to be $150. I am paying $750 now. Every flight is oversold. Airlines cut on flights and now jam packed the few ones they fly so prices are outrageous.
Another option: Airlines could raise wages and benefits packages to attract more staff and cut CEO and executive compensation. if they had used the taxpayer bailout money more effectively to keep a healthy staff buffer, this wouldn’t have happened.
Well santastico says that people are living high off the hog from the $1400 they got from the government over a year ago and no longer want to work. So your idea won’t work, because everyone is set for life now thanks to their Biden bucks. It must be true, santastico said so and that guy doesn’t have an axe to grind at all.
Explain to me why people don’t want to work? How are they living if they don’t work? Well, many are car jacking, robbing people on daylight, but not all are doing that.
People are working, just not for cheap asses. Amazon pays $18 an hour starting pay with full benefits, why work for $12 when Amazon jobs are plentiful? My employer is struggling with this in our plant.
That plus early retirements… though with the stock market dropping there may be some geezers looking to come back to work
Let me refresh your memory. Those “Biden bucks” we’re actually distributed in spring 2020….9 months before Biden was President. You Cons have the memory span of a goldfish and the I. Q. of a turnip.
Thank You. Also, the empathy of a fire ant.
I get calls from Amazon to work for them for $200K plus a TS security clearance. I say no because I simply don’t trust them. They hire fresh bodies to keep people working hard lest they get fired at year’s end but there’s no predicting if you’ll be one of the “slouchers” let go. It’s just not worth the risk to me.
If I was a bit younger, I’d take them up on it but I have a kid I have to be around for. I’d kiss their arse for a year to get the clearance and then quietly move on somewhere else for a cool $150K year due to the value of the clearance.
Heck, that may be why they’re desperate to recruit me: it wouldn’t surprise me if their turnover is so high they can’t keep anyone around that long.
Anyhoo, there’s a two tier sector to our economy of those who did well during the pandemic and they’ve got the free cash to pack the planes and others who, well, now that butter has gone up from $2/lb to $3.50/lb I wonder how they’re getting by but do they buy leisure travel during the Summer?
With interest rates doubled, high consumer inflation, and about 800K new immigrants coming online as citizens to compete for jobs with the locals driving down wages, things are going to get interesting…
What position was it from Amazon?
Hahaha. No you aren’t and no you don’t. You’re specifically talking AWS if you’re talking about them “getting” you a TS clearance that you don’t already have. That’s not how any of that happens. At all. And when it does it’s a year(s)-long process, at least. And if anyone is remotely telling you that they’re lying to you or, more correctly, you’re embellishing greatly to prove some strange, non-sequitur point.
The butter I buy at Trader Joe’s (a french importer one at that), went from $3.69 to $3.99, hardly the $1.50 per pound you’re saying.
Airline executives are too coddled. Cane them on live television and things will improve.
Santasco fares are already triple !
You just LOVE to go onto various travel sites and say the same thing on each forum, don’t you? Here, OMATT, LALF…
Prices for airlines and hotels are too expensive as it is. This is an operational issue and I’m calling bullschitt on staffing shortages. All these supposed jobs that no one wants? What does everyone do for money? I hear people can’t make a living due to inflation and then I hear no one wants to work. Which is it? Something doesn’t add up. I see hundreds of applicants per job on LinkedIn. The media narrative and the airline excuses don’t fit.
We will be paying for our over reaction to Covid for decades.
What a travesty our society has become.
Scared of our own shadows.
Yea, F those million Americans that died from covid. Dont they know that Don says they are just afraid of their shadows!?
3/4 of which died under Brandon’s “presidency”
Actually only about 58% of the deaths, and about 2/3 of the pandemic time has occurred under biden. I wasn’t going to play that game, but since you are… why didn’t Trump stop this before it spread?
Brandon is out today doing more important things than worrying about Covid or airlines disruptions. He is at a bike shop buying training wheels for his bike.
The guy won the election. Get over it.
He stole it
The ass clown that runs Transportation is telling the airlines to hire more help. Shows how out of touch the tonsil jockey is with the current employment situation. Every airline is trying to urgently hire at this point.
Current employment situation caused by a demented that decided to print money at his basement and give it away to all lazy people that thinks the Government had to take care of them. That is why people don’t want to work.
Aw, sock puppets are cute.
Aaron, you’re too retarded. Keep believing everyone who disagrees with your horrible takes a sockpuppet.
Nah, I don’t believe everyone is a sock puppet, “Jan”. Only the truly vile ones like you.
Finally someone gets it. The Fed printed way too much money in an effort to keep lazy shareholders afloat, then the government shoveled PPP to a bunch of frauds who went out and bought Lamborghinis on the taxpayers’ dime. We should ask for all of the Fed and PPP money back.
Is that some kind of disgusting homophobic joke?
And if they want to hire more people, raise pay and benefits. It’s just the free market. The cost of labor has gone up, whats so weird about that? Companies are happy when it it works in their favor and they can pay slave wages, but all of a sudden it’s unfair when the pendulum swings the other way?
I have a big itinerary in 2 weeks, and I’m watching FlightAware very closely, and history says they’ve been more or less on time consistently. Which for the last leg, may be a bad thing since it’s out of AMS and it’s a tight layover.
I second what Matthew has said about reaching out with Twitter for rescheduling.
My flight for Wednesday was cancelled this morning at 4:45AM EST. My wife and I got up and tried using the airline app and website to re-book, but neither would work. We both (individually) got on the phone with the airline. Hold time was over an hour at 5AM.
While we waited we signed up for twitter accounts (don’t judge!) and sent twitter messages that were responded to within 5 minutes. Ultimately, the phone agent managed to complete the re-booking before the twitter team– but the phone team had a healthy head start, and once it seemed like we had a very competent phone agent helping us, we held off on more twitter messages.
In addition to recommending the twitter messaging, I also recommend calling the airline immediately and running more than one phone if you can. You will almost certainly have enough wait time to investigate options on the app or website on your own.
use the airline app first.
Where are the watchdogs folks! Where? That’s the real question here, where did all of our damned money went? How was it spent?
It went where most of our government money went, into the ether…
“Elections have consequences.”
Thanks for the heads up, Matthew! I’ll keep all this in mind as our summer travel unfolds.
Sorry in advance for anyone connecting in Newark. Thoughts are with you.
Also, for the past 2 years Delta has been the leader in cancellations. What happened? They used to always brag about their operations, and now they are worst than Spirit.
Serves them all right. If people would limit their travel to only essential travel, none of these issues would exist. And we’d give President Biden a chance to defeat the virus once and for all.
You should just stay in the basement with President Brandon.
All of this, the supply chain, the war, the border, the pandemic current state, the military withdraw, is all the result of the most incompetent administration I’ve ever seen.
Red Wave 2022 and 2024!
I got a paper cut this morning. DAMN YOU BIDEN! ARRGGGHHH!
Don’t forget the heat wave and drought in the Southwest, both also Brandon’s fault.
Stagflation is on biden
“the result of the most incompetent administration I’ve ever seen.”
That administration was voted out of office a couple of years ago.
Everyone misses Trump
Please get a clue. Almost the entire world is suffering from the same issues that you describe. What’s “Brandon” have to do with Covid shutting down much of the World’s economies? Countries other than US are experiencing hard times now. We were warned of this at the start of crisis. When all this You know nothing of the lives & views of so called liberals. And you don’t seem to care to see what else is happening World wide.
I’m flying OKC to ORD then ORD to LHR, all on AA later this week. The OKC flight is almost always on time and a go. The LHR is delayed 1-2 hours almost every day (though not all). These days that seems fortunate. I was originally booked on one of the new BA suites, but AA had to rebook me. No reason given, but clearly, I see the blessing in that now. I am not returning for almost a month, so if I can get there, I’m good. Sort of. Then there’s the rail strike…
Why not rebook yourself on BA?
Refundable tickets are even more expensive than the high fares that we are currently seeing. If I choose to preemptively spend ¢600 to make a back up (economy) booking for my next trip within Europe in case there’s something wrong with the flights I intend to use, I would still be feeling super nervous about it all. If I did end up having to use the refundable ticket, I would have spent a small fortune and would be certain to have an extremely hard time claiming any loss back through my travel insurance and/or the civil courts.
What the airlines are touting to their stockholders as a “juniority” Covid benefit is actually their Achilles.
Turns out that when you have a majority of employees who are newer and paid less, the lack of experience in dealing with “irrops” means that minor disruptions become sh*t storms. Fewer people with the know how to solve immediate problems means they become major disruptions…
It’ll work out, but not in the immediate future and not in time to rescue this summer.
There was a pilot shortage before the pandemic and once borders closed no one was traveling for interviews or simulator training.
Then the airlines offered severance and early retirement to senior, experience employees leaving a massive brain drain in the day to day operation.
Don’t forget that the ridiculous 1,500 hour minimum for pilots still exists.
And then you have the airport staff who realized that they could work hourly jobs elsewhere and not have to work weekends, overnights and holidays.
This will take years to recover from…not weeks or months.
This is a classic example of regulatory capture. It seems very prevalent in many industries in the US. For this you need very corrupt politicians and regulators, this is very common in the US, an extremely stupid or captured electorate, which is common in the US too, where white Republicans are happy if non- whites are suppressed, and liberals are happy if their narrow interests are served, like getting free money, or abortion rights or gay rights etc., such that beyond these narrow interests they give their politicians a break.
So we have corrupt politicians, captured by vested, moneyed interests and an indifferent, borderline stupid electorate, which leads to big bailouts for the industry but still all kinds of shortages. The bailouts went directly into the pocketbooks of the vested interests, some of whom happened to be the corrupt politicians themselves.
All that to say i am surprised more riots don’t happen in the US.