Tips for flyers as airport staffing issues continue to impact travel industry
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - On Monday alone, there have been more than 600 flights listed as canceled across the United States. As we get closer to the Fourth of July weekend, customer demand to fly will only increase and staffing is struggling to keep up.
Mark Trammel was waiting at Blue Grass Airport for his flight to Tampa, Florida. His flight was on time, but when recently flying out of other airports to Tampa, he experienced several cancelations.
“Two full days lost staying at the airport so, yeah. Supposed to be at work,” Trammel said.
If you’re flying this summer, chances are you can relate. Trammel recently canceled his own flight out of Dallas to Omaha, Nebraska. There was a pilot strike in Dallas and he didn’t think he’d make it to the College World Series in time, so he drove 10 hours.
“Been delayed three times already this year. So I was worried we might not make it to the game,” Trammel said.
Why is the airline industry experiencing turbulence? Sean Howard, the chief flying instructor at EKU Aviation Program, told us it’s a supply and demand issue.
A pent-up demand by Americans to travel, combined with staffing issues. He said COVID forced a lot of airline pilots into retirement, and 13% of airline pilots will retire in 5-6 years, causing a hole in the pilot pipeline.
The airlines are pulling in pilots from regional airports to support the major airports, leaving a staffing gap on the regional side, which is used as a backup plan for pilot staffing.
“If there’s not enough backup plans for the airline, what they wind up doing is canceling the flights,” Howard said.
These events trickle down to Roxanne Laks’ desk at AAA. She’s worked as a travel agent there for 19 years.
She says she’s never had to deal with this amount of cancellations in her career.
“I’m contacting clients several times a week with cancellations. It’s not a happy conversation, people are always disappointed, especially since they’ve delayed travel because of COVID,” Laks said.
Laks has some tips to work around a potential delay in your vacation plans. She said build in an extra day before you fly out, just in case you’re delayed. She also suggests buying travel insurance and taking a direct flight because layovers can be delayed or canceled.
“Every stop is an opportunity for disaster,” Laks said.
However, flights are running smooth so far at Blue Grass Airport.
“Fortunately at Blue Grass Airport we’ve been minimally impacted by the cancellations that we’re seeing across the country,” said Lauren White, community relations manager at Blue Grass Airport.
An airport spokesperson said they can’t predict if disruption will come to Lexington. If it does, experts suggest having a backup plan or be grounded.
“Yeah you just have to sit there, ask for some vouchers,” Trammel said.
Howard said the airline industry is adding 500 airline pilots a month, but it’ll take time to fill the gaps.
EKU itself graduates about 50 students a year form its program.
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