As the Christmas season in the U.S. fast approaches, travelers who haven’t seen their families in months, and in some cases years, face costly air travel and unexpected cancellations as airlines demand that they your employees get vaccinated.
What’s more, in addition to astronomical airfares, unexpected cancellations, and shocking wait times, travelers choosing to cross states by car will have to deal with much higher-than-usual gas prices.
Both American Airlines and JetBlue issued mandates this month requiring their employees to take the hit before the holidays.
Airlines have required their staff to receive their second COVID vaccine injection by November 24, the day before Thanksgiving.
Any staff member who has refused could stand down or face the ax on the busiest travel day on the American calendar, triggering a spate of flight cancellations due to a sudden staff shortage.
If a crash like that happens, flights that end up taking off will see ticket prices skyrocket even more than normal for the expensive time of year, as travelers whose planes have been canceled raise prices for other flights that follow. scheduled.
With Thanksgiving approaching and COVID restrictions relaxed since last year, experts say they expect high airfares, long lines and sudden cancellations.
With COVID-19 travel restrictions relaxed since last year, a record number of people are expected to arrive at airports in the coming months to travel and visit family members they probably haven’t seen since the start of the pandemic.
JetBlue has 22,000 employees, but has not said how many of its staff have received the vaccine. American, the world’s largest airline, has 133,000 employees and has yet to release figures on how many of its workers have yet to get vaccinated.
In addition, after almost two years of reduced passenger numbers, airlines have increased ticket prices to make up for lost profits.
The average price of a Thanksgiving flight in the United States is up 13 percent from 2019, and a shocking 37 percent from last year.
Net losses to U.S. airlines in 2020 after the pandemic amounted to billions, according to analyst estimates provided by software company FactSet, and airlines are still projected to have lost more than $ 200 billion through next year. .
Anyone who wants to save money by traveling by car will also be hit by a major shock, as median gasoline prices nationwide soared 50.75 percent in one year.
A gallon of gasoline now costs $ 3,288, $ 1,107 more than at the same time last year. The skyrocketing price spike has been attributed to a rise in the cost of crude oil, as demand recovers rapidly as the world reopens after COVID.
Economists predict that prices will rise for an extended period of time, which means there is little hope for a respite by Thanksgiving.
However, with COVID-19 travel restrictions relaxed since last year, a record number of travelers are expected to cross the country in the coming months to visit family members they may not have seen since the start of the pandemic.
“Expect airports and flights to be more crowded than ever around Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Narendra Khatri, an executive at a travel insurance company, told The Washington Post last month. “This means more flight delays, cancellations and long layovers.”
Any airline staff member who has rejected the airlines’ forced mask mandates could end up quitting work or facing the ax, on the busiest travel day on the American calendar, sparking a flurry of flight cancellations due to a sudden shortage of staff.
This AAA chart shows how gas prices have skyrocketed this year, and motorists on vacation will face a tough time at the pumps.
“We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand,” Ankit Gupta, vice president of network planning and scheduling for another major airline, United, said in a statement.
The airline announced last month that searches for vacation flights on its website were up 16 percent on its site compared to 2019.
Meanwhile, interest in domestic flights for the Thanksgiving season is up a whopping 111 percent from last year, according to travel site Trip Actions.
“ Expect airports and flights to be more crowded than ever around Thanksgiving and Christmas, ” said Narendra Khatri, an executive at a travel insurance company. The Washington Post last month.
“This means more flight delays, cancellations and long layovers.”
And prices have also gone up on all the major airlines.
For domestic flights, the average fare is $ 377, 13 percent more than in 2019 and 37 percent as of 2020. International flights are flat compared to 2019, averaging around $ 968 this year, but 18 percent more than last year.
American Airline executives told their workers they must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, or face layoff.
The airlines’ ultimatum comes after President Joe Biden’s executive order last month requiring all airline employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8, and the two companies now join a variety of other airlines that they have complied with the White House demand.
Columbus Day weekend already saw a series of unprecedented delays for another major airline, Southwest, when more than 2,300 flights were suddenly canceled over the holiday weekend, amid rumors that hordes of pilots leaving. opposed to Biden’s mandate fell ill in protest.
Both the airline and its pilots union have denied those sickness claims, though Southwest has suffered many times more cancellations in recent days than any other American airline.
The head of the Southwest Pilots Union, Captain Casey Murray, blamed company management for the mistake.
Southwest has already been hampered by staff shortages as demand for travel has skyrocketed after the reduction in travel laws.
JetBlue also issued mandates this month that require employees to receive the jab before the holidays.
According to government statistics, the airline has lost more than 8,000 employees since the pandemic began in the United States in August 2021.
There may also be unexpected COVID-related restrictions or outbreaks at traveler destinations, especially for international travelers, which can cause last minute cancellations.
An influx of bookings for vacation rentals also suggests that vacation travel rates in the coming months will be at an all-time high.
The volume of national reserves for the months of November and December increased 377 percent compared to last year, amid the pandemic, and 91 percent from 2019, according to the short-term rental property management platform Guesty. .
For Thanksgiving, the median rental rate is $ 415 per night, a 19 percent price increase from last year.
Meanwhile, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has reluctantly supported the possibility of traveling on Thanksgiving Day, but has warned travelers not to let their guard down during the holidays, saying that infections “can recover.”
Americans traveling by land should also expect similar dangers.
Gasoline prices are higher than they have been in seven years: more than $ 1 per gallon more than last Thanksgiving.
Also, drivers in some California counties pay more than $ 5 per gallon.
And as more people are eager to travel, the COVID death toll nationwide just surpassed 700,000, with an additional 1,700 Americans dying every day from the virus and thousands of vaccinated citizens succumbing to ‘game-changing infections’. a case of COVID occurring in someone. that he is fully vaccinated.