Are you feeling like Steve Martin and John Candy yet? The 1987 comedy classic Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was supposed to represent the worst possible travel experience. These days, it’s become the rule.
If you’ve tried to fly recently you know what I’m talking about. Outrageous fares, delays, re-routing, and in many cases, flat out cancellations.
“I felt very frustrated,” Melanie Ricks told me. “Just felt stranded and felt like ‘okay, what’s next?'”
Ricks, Milwaukee Bucks gameday host, went on a 48 hour trip. She ended up spending the same amount of time in airports, causing her to miss multiple days of work.
Before you even get to the airport and have your plans ruined, you’re likely paying an arm and a leg for airfare. $600 dollars to fly from Milwaukee to Phoenix? Why?
“Bottom line, this is demand,” said ABC’s Alex Stone. “We all want to go somewhere and are willing to pay the price.”
Stone says it won’t change soon, but we’re all likely to reach a breaking point.
“It’s probably our new normal for right now,” he said. “We heard from Delta Airlines and they’re not seeing anyone back away.”
So you did it, you spent a week’s salary on your ticket and now you’re ready fly, but your plane isn’t. Why is this happening so often? Fox World Travel’s Rose Gray says airlines, like everyone else, lost a big bulk of their workforce. Simply put, your plane isn’t taking off because there’s nobody to fly it, attend it, or pack it with luggage.
“Some people got out of the business entirely because they were just tired of it,” said Gray. “They felt overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.”
So who’s at fault here?
“Everybody’s pointing fingers at somebody else,” said Stone.
Bob Mann is a former executive in the airline industry. It was his job to schedule trips for the airlines. He had to weigh how many planes were needed, where they needed to be, and whether they had the capacity to staff them. Who does he blame for the issues?
“Ultimately it’s the airlines that published schedules and sold tickets long in advance of their ability to actually fulfill that travel reliably,” said Mann. “That’s where you have to point the finger.
Mann says they’ve even admitted it. In some cases, their estimations for how much staff they’d need for all their flights was off by ten percent.
“If I came in with a ten percent error, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was fired,” he said.
Gray piled on, saying the airlines brought this on themselves, misusing funds from the $54 billion government bailout they received during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was intended to avert layoffs,” she said. “That’s not really what happened. It ended up being early retirements and buyouts.”
Ricks isn’t the only one frustrated. Travelers all over the country are at a loss.
“They’re frustrated, aggrevated,” said Stone. “People are saying ‘look, I payed a thousand bucks to go to Orlando and now you’re telling me I have no way to get home for a week?’ That makes you angry.”
So how do we fix it?
“Nobody really knows,” said Stone. “They’re cutting flights. If you’re traveling, know it’s maybe not going to go the way you want it to go.”