Why Are Airlines Struggling to Keep Pace with Holiday Travel Surge?

by Clayton Edwards

This year, things are slowly starting to get back to normal. As a result, many Americans are looking to make up for lost time this holiday season. That means bigger gatherings, happier holidays, and, of course, holiday travel.

The airline industry has been struggling for months. For example, American Airlines alone had to cancel hundreds of flights in the fall. At that time, they were facing staff shortages as well as supply chain issues. American and other airlines simply didn’t have the people or supplies to run all the flights they had booked. The airlines weren’t prepared for a massive surge in holiday traffic. However, that’s exactly what they got.

The Whys Behind Holiday Travel Woes

According to The Hill, the number of passengers screened by the TSA exceeded the number of passengers who flew two years ago. So, not only is holiday travel back to pre-pandemic levels, it’s higher than pre-pandemic travel rates. The publication also explained why airlines are ill-prepared for the surge.

Early in the pandemic, airlines were facing a 96% drop in traffic. As a result, they needed to find a way to save money. So, they quickly came up with a two-stage plan. First, they convinced several senior employees to take early retirement. This allowed them to cut down on salary costs. Later, after the pandemic ended and travel picked back up, they would replace all of their senior employees with new hires.

Unfortunately for the airlines, interest in working in the industry is low. They couldn’t have predicted this because it’s the first time in the history of commercial aviation that there has been little to no interest in the industry. In short, airlines weren’t prepared to operate at full capacity in normal times. This surge in Holiday traffic only highlights how far the industry has fallen.

Additionally, the omicron variant of COVID spread like wildfire through the airline industry. As a result, many employees are currently under a 10-day quarantine. Currently, the airline industry is pushing the CDC to shorten that period to five days. Otherwise, they say, there will be no way they can keep up with holiday travel demands.

On Christmas Eve, United and Delta airlines canceled hundreds of flights. Things don’t look like they’ll get better anytime soon.  

Travel Tips

The Hill also gave some helpful holiday travel tips. For instance, if you experience trouble with a flight, social media is a great tool. “Many times,” the publication stated, “something as simple as a Facebook private message to an airline can provide quick travel options.” In order to make sure your message is effective, include your six-digit confirmation number, then describe the problem. Keep it short, civil, and to the point.