Appetite to Traveling again after more than two years of blockades and debates about mask mandates has yielded one completely predictable result: many airports and airlines are unprepared for significant traffic growth, and this summer things could get worse.

The spring break of 2022 was an occasion to see if air travel could expand to meet one of the biggest demands since the onset of the Covid crisis. It was a test that the industry largely failed, and the problems were exacerbated by bad weather and thousands of canceled flights. Stories of pilots dropping rented cars to catch up on flights among endless queues, and pilots knocking out (so to speak) and sleeping at airports are becoming too common.

Even with higher-than-inflation increases in flight prices caused by rising fuel prices and other factors, airports are expected to be overcrowded this summer, at least if there is no serious Covid option that wreaks havoc on travel plans. What can you do to avoid chaos or at least understand the factors at play? We spoke to some airline experts about the situation and their navigation tips.

What causes these roars at U.S. airports?

Many of the factors causing delays at the airport are related to Covid-19: demand is growing as travel restrictions have been lifted and the number of coronaviruses has fallen. High gasoline prices are also forcing some kibosh to go on long trips. And more people are being delayed at airports due to flight cancellations or delays caused by technical problems (such as system failures in early April in the Southwest) or low staffing levels.

Daniel Findley, deputy director of the Institute for Transport Research and Education in North Carolina, says staff cuts in the industry have created a savings system that leaves no room for error, especially when the weather comes into play.

“You see it on the pilot side, for example, and on flight crews, air traffic control, and on the supply and materials side. If one thing breaks, do you know if there is another pilot and flight crew that can come in if some critical engine part needs to be replaced? ” Findley says, “What is the cascading effect if in the morning the crew is not where they need to be and there is no backup crew? Now you have missed the whole day of flights and these transfers. “

Big resignations and other factors could also contribute to flight cancellations, delays on security lines and staffing problems, Findley says. “There are other things in particular, such as pilot retirement, but it’s mostly related to Covid and the overall job market.”

Findley says another major shift that could stretch over the summer is that Covid’s long-standing fears, restrictions on Covid-related travel abroad, and high flight prices are forcing more and more Americans to abandon international travel and stay in the US, which contributes to the overcrowding of domestic airports.

“Whether they go to regional beaches or national parks, it has affected our domestic market, perhaps in a way we did not expect,” he says.

How long will it last?

The cuts in staff at airlines and airports, as well as government security agents for air travel have been unprecedented, largely due to a sharp drop in demand for flights in 2020 and 2021, when Americans stayed home. It is impossible to say how long it will take to maintain staff, says William Rankin, a professor of airport management at the Florida Institute of Technology. The closest to this situation we saw after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“When it happened on September 11, we, of course, turned off the whole system for a few days. All in all, it was three to four weeks (breakdown), but then the time to prepare for the stockpile was probably six to nine months before we were at full capacity, in terms of staff, ”Rankin says. that “couldn’t even imagine” how long it might take after Covid.

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