Autumn flights.. here's what to expect

 Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- The summer travel season has been a disaster for many travelers, with nearly 55,000 flights canceled in the United States since the Friday before Memorial Day.


Autumn flights.. here's what to expect

According to data from flight tracker FlightAware, nearly a quarter of US flights have been delayed this summer.

Kathleen Bangs, a former pilot and spokeswoman for FlightAware, said the biggest problem with staff shortages has been air travel this season... so far.

Bangs tends to be skeptical of airlines' efforts to ramp up flight schedules to pre-pandemic levels, with staffing challenges for 2022.

"They really thought that enough people would come back, that they were going to hire enough new people, to meet the demand, but as we've all seen, they just couldn't do it," Bangs added.

However, some industry experts are cautiously optimistic about air travel this Labor Day weekend, with expectations of a smoother travel season in the fall.

The Hopper travel app, 12.6 million passengers are scheduled to fly from US airports over the weekend, and the app expects Thursday and Friday to be its busiest days.

And the US Department of Transportation has published a new online dashboard, where travelers can find comparative information on what each of the large US airlines offers to passengers when delays or cancellations are caused by factors under the airline's control.

Hope for the Labor Day holiday

Travelers wait at New York City's LaGuardia Airport, last July, plain_textCredit: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg/Getty Images Scott Keyes, founder of flight deals and travel advisory website Scott's Cheap Flights, recently told CNN that he expects fewer Disruptions in air travel during Labor Day weekend compared to what travelers experienced during Memorial Day weekend, early summer.

“At the time, there were widespread delays and cancellations that turned out to be a nightmare for many travelers,” Keys adds. And then you had the 4th of July weekend, when there was minimal disruption to travel.”

Keys expects the Labor Day holiday will also see minimal travel disruption, which he believes is because there will be fewer travelers on Labor Day than on Memorial Day.

“With fewer passengers, it will put less pressure on the system.”

The “optimal” travel is heading into the fall

Bangs said airlines have reduced their summer schedules by about 15%, which she said is one of the main reasons the number of delays and cancellations has not increased.

Bangs noted that significant schedule cuts are already underway in the fall, in addition to declining demand typically as children return to school.

"More than 52,000 American airlines have cut off their fall schedules, including more than 30,000 American Airlines flights," Bangs said.

"Travel should ideally be during the period between September and October, when the demand is low, and thus the level of pressure on heavy flight schedules that we have seen during the summer," she added.

In terms of prices, the experts at Hopper recently saw a 37% drop in domestic airfares in the US for travel during September and October, compared to the peak of air travel in the summer.

Which is well worth keeping an eye on and swooning over attractive vacation rates, too.

For his part, Hayley Berg, chief economist at Huber, noted that airline ticket prices "will rise very quickly as we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas."

Bangs also noted a one-third drop in prices for travel to several cities during September and October.

"With reduced seating capacity scheduled for the fall, people considering travel during September and October and into early November should purchase these tickets now while they are discounted," she said.

Bangs expects holiday ticket prices to remain low through September and possibly into October before rebounding.

How about vacation travel later this year?

Bangs made it clear that airlines will be well prepared for the 2022 Thanksgiving and Christmas season, "when staffing levels return to or exceed 2019 levels."

And she expects the spread of Covid-19 mutants, in addition to seasonal viruses such as influenza, to affect employee absenteeism this fall, noting that the disease hit airlines hard during the Christmas season 2021 and until last January.

"With the shortened schedule and ramped-up staffing, airlines look better than last year for the 2021 Thanksgiving and holiday season," she added.

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