Many travelers will be taking to the skies and hitting up the roadways this holiday season. But David Smiley, a senior lecturer in the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, says despite the number of travelers expected this year, the travel industry is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and we should expect some difficulties when starting our holiday travel.
According to Smiley, 30 percent of flights were cancelled or delayed in 2021, and while that has decreased to 17 percent this year, he expects it to rise this holiday season. In addition to unpredictable weather conditions, staffing may play a big role in the delays or cancellations travelers experience. Smiley says many large airlines who are short staffed are taking pilots from regional airports as replacements. This can cause a chain reaction of delays and cancellations ensues for people who fly out of small airports.
Airlines are not the only industry impacted by a lack of employees. Hotel occupancies are at all-time high, Smiley says, but there is not enough staff to accommodate guests.
And while he says inflation has cooled off, travelers should be aware that their vacations will cost more this year compared to the past. Smiley says airfare is up 44 percent from previous years, and drivers can expect more in gas prices as well.
Holiday travel will certainly come with some risks, but if you do plan to travel this holiday season, Smiley says there are some things you can do to help make it a smoother process.
First, download a travel price tracker app such as Hopper. It will monitor airfare, hotel reservations, and car rental prices in real time so customers can book when prices are at their most affordable.
Second, he says to prepare for the unexpected when traveling this year. Have back-up plans ready in case you experience a cancelled flight. If you can drive to your destination instead, plan ahead to ensure your car has been recently serviced and is ready for winter weather conditions and be sure your insurance is up to date before taking off on your long-haul road trip.
Finally, have patience with the air and hospitality industries. While there are many frustrations that come along with travel at any time of year, Smiley says the root of most issues currently lie in the lack of employees and uncontrollable weather.
Remembering these things, he says, can help ensure all travelers have a safe and happy holiday season.