Summer travel is here, but maybe we should all stay home a little longer
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
We waited out a pandemic for this?
As Americans ramp up travel after largely staying home in 2020, pressure points emerge each day. Air passenger rage incidents both multiply and worsen. Airports may be full, but airport concession employees and TSA security officers are in short supply, leading to long lines. Also in short supply: rental cars. And of course, airline ticket prices are rising.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s best to stay home a little longer.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
Unruly travelers can ruin the travel experience
In assessing the viability of travel in 2021, two recent incidents stand out – one domestic and one in Europe.
In a particularly disturbing case, a Southwest flight attendant suffered injuries to her face and lost two teeth after being assaulted by a passenger on a May 23rd flight from Sacramento to San Diego.
Related: FAA doubles down on fines
The day after the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration said it has received approximately 2,500 reports of unruly passenger behavior this year. About 1,900 of those cases involved travelers who refused to wear masks while flying. It was unclear whether the Southwest incident involved a no-masker.
The TSA has since extended a mask mandate in aircraft, buses, trains and airports through Sept. 13.
And while most passengers comply willingly, it’s no pleasure to be on a flight with angry people who feel compelled to decry measures intended to protect public health. Theoretically, if mask mandates are not extended past the Sept. 13 deadline, air travel may be less safe for those unvaccinated for COVID-19, but would involve fewer unpleasant confrontations.
International travel is still a gamble
Internationally, the problem is not no-maskers but rather the complexities of sometimes unforeseen government responses to the pandemic.
Over the weekend, British tourists scrambled to leave Portugal because the British government – reacting to the threat of a new COVID-19 variant — imposed a Tuesday deadline to return without having to quarantine upon arrival. This was a sudden reversal in a policy set just days earlier.
“The ongoing nightmare…forced some Brits to pay through the nose to come home from Portugal early to avoid having to self-isolate,” Daily Mail reported Monday.
Author Rick Steves, one of the best-known U.S. authorities on European travel, has thrown up his hands on 2021 transatlantic travel.
“Right now, I’m not that desperate to go to a Europe where you’ve got to wonder: ‘Can I cross that border? What about flights? Will there be a quarantine waiting for me anywhere?’,” Steves told The Seattle Times in a recent interview.
“Patience is not an American forte, and certainly not a Rick Steves forte — but I’m telling people: ‘Relax. This is what we expected,’” said Steves, a resident of Edmonds, Washington. ”It would be nice if we could be traveling again in late 2021, but I think early 2022 is realistic.”
Steves said the problem is that “Europe isn’t open until Europe is open.” In a truly open Europe, he said, “I go to the pubs in Ireland to sit at the bar and clink glasses with people who really believe strangers are just friends who’ve yet to meet.” Additionally, he said, some mom-and-pop businesses with insufficient resources to survive the pandemic, may have closed. Perhaps they can reopen in 2022.
Prices are rising and personnel shortages are prevalent
Travel app Hopper saw a 16% gain in domestic ticket prices from April through May. Domestic fares should peak in late June, Hopper said, before falling about 10% in September, then rising back up 10% in October. According to Hopper, domestic fares have risen 23% since March 1 in Charlotte, which is the second busiest hub for American Airlines. An average domestic round-trip fare is now $296, up from $240.
So far, the problem in Charlotte hasn’t only been higher fares, but also a shortage of workers at both concessions and the Transportation Security Administration. In a pre-Memorial Day media conference, airport and TSA officials urged people to apply for airport jobs. Plus, American Airlines and Delta have both asked employees to volunteer to help with airport operations.
Nevertheless, on Saturday, June 5, hundreds of travelers missed flights due to insufficient security staffing, an American Airlines official told Charlotte TV station WBTV.
The TV station reiterated the best travel advice anyone can give: Enroll in TSA PreCheck, which is almost a guarantee of shorter lines to clear security.
One more hazard of 2021 travel is the rental car shortage. In 2020, rental car companies sold off inventory; in 2021, new car production has been hampered by a semiconductor shortage. This means finding a rental has become harder — and often much more expensive.
The Bottom Line
It is well known that travel falls off when summer ends. This year, if the mask mandate ends as scheduled on Sept. 13, the number of onboard confrontations could also diminish. Additionally, it appears that Europe is opening, although slowly and inconsistently.
Given the multiple hiccups passengers may face while traveling this summer, patience may provide the best global solution. And perhaps booking in shoulder season instead of summer is the best strategy this year.
Featured image by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees