No end in sight for air travel headaches, analyst says

Morning In America

(NewsNation Now) — All eyes are on a recent spate of flight cancellations as Americans warily begin booking travel plans for the holiday rush.

More than 2,500 flights were canceled on American Airlines over the weekend and into this week. The disruptions have people concerned over what could be the new normal for air travel.

Will problems at the airport smooth themselves out by the holidays or is something even larger going on?

“It’s a lot more,” travel journalist Peter Greenberg said during an appearance on “Morning in America”. “You have understaffing issues. You have labor issues. You have fuel prices going way up — they are 55% over last year and expected to go even higher by 2022.”

Staffing shortages have already led to long lines at the airport and slower service all around, but it could get worse with more people planning to fly between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

“You have a situation where you have the TSA understaffed by 5,000 agents and not able to get back up to speed fast enough for the holidays,” Greenberg said.

Beginning Nov. 8, the U.S. opens up to thousands of foreign travelers as international COVID-19 travel requirements are eased.

“So at a time of the year, which is normally quiet, other than the four-day Thanksgiving vacation, it’s going to be messy all the way through the end of the year,” Greenberg said.

“Right now, flights are only 6% under capacity from where they were in 2019,” he said. “Next week, that number gets erased, it’s going to be way over.”

Greenberg also warns of forthcoming fare hikes in addition to operational disruptions.

“You’re not out of luck if you want to pay a premium,” he said. “The bottom line is with those prices going up. Right now, it’s not going to be pretty to get a deal anywhere within the U.S.”

On the bright side, Greenberg predicts cheaper fares to Europe.

“Because so many people are coming to the U.S., it’s an imbalance in the system,” he said. “Capacity is available. The fares are then lower.”

And what about hitting the road over the holidays instead?

“Compared to the price of gas a year ago, it now costs consumers about $17 more to fill up their vehicles,” said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson. “That’s the cost of a large pizza with toppings. And unfortunately, it doesn’t look like drivers will be finding relief at the pump any time soon.”

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