Airlines and travelers buckle up for a wildly busy summer of travel
April 18, 2022
By Neal Freyman, The Morning Brew
With Easter in the rearview, today marks the unofficial beginning of the summer travel season. And if you’re heading out of town over the next few months, you might want to take some notes from Tom Hanks in The Terminal for ways to stay occupied at the airport: It’s going to be chaos, industry experts say.
First of all, there’s going to be huge demand. People are making up for two years of canceled plans with vacations, weddings, and golf trips to Myrtle with the boys. Some data points:
- Monthly domestic ticket bookings and revenue in February exceeded 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic began.
- Credit card spending on airlines is also above 2019 levels, JPMorgan said.
“We’re seeing an increase in demand that is really unparalleled,” Delta President Glen Hauenstein said last month. The company reported that March 2022 was its best month for sales ever.
But airlines are stretched thin
The sector, which went into hibernation mode in spring 2020, was not prepared for the bounceback in demand and has been scrambling to staff up amid a widespread shortage of workers. JetBlue hired 3,000 new crew members this year but says that still isn’t enough to cover personnel needs in some areas.
Resourcing challenges aren’t limited to the US. Over in the UK, Stansted airport outside London told passengers traveling during Easter to drop off their luggage 24 hours before their flight.
That’s…extreme, but airlines are hoping that proactive steps like that may stem the worst of the headaches for passengers. JetBlue plans to cut up to 10% of its flight capacity in May for the assurance that your flight will be canceled before you even book it.
Bottom line: If airlines can keep their operations running relatively smoothly over the summer, they could be in for a windfall. While airfares jumped 10.7% in March from the previous month, Americans have shown they’re willing to pay big bucks for a glimpse of something that’s not their local grocery store.