Kicking off the summer travel season has been plagued with problems. Memorial Day weekend was marked by canceled flights across the country, which created a cascade of delays.
More than 5,000 flights were canceled worldwide over the bank holiday weekend.
At Minneapolis-St. Delta’s Paul International Airport had the highest number of cancellations.
“Before the pandemic, Delta would go months without canceling a single flight, and here they are canceling hundreds of flights,” said Kyle Potter, editor of the Minnesota-based website Thrifty Traveler. “It’s happened to literally every airline, big and small, in the country over the past year and has changed.”
Potter attributes the turbulence to a variety of factors, including pandemic-related cuts that have left airlines understaffed.
“You’re throwing a bad storm in part of the country, you’re throwing air traffic control issues, you’re throwing an overall pilot shortage that’s plaguing the entire airline industry right now, and you’re throwing rising COVID cases. in your workforce — or all of it — and things fall apart, and they fall apart very quickly,” Potter said.
He encourages travelers to plan as best they can but expects disruption as the summer season continues.
“Travelers are just going to be in a really tough place with unpredictable and constantly changing conditions for a while,” Potter said.
The owner of Wayzata-based Travel Beyond, Craig Beal, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he has personally experienced cancellations on trips over the past two years.
“I’ve been to Africa three times since August 2020,” Beal said. “Twice my return flight was canceled and I was put on one the next day. It never disrupts your earlier trip, but you may need to stay around Nairobi, or Johannesburg, or Cape Town, or somewhere for an extra day at the end of your trip.
His company specializes in planning safaris. Overall, Beal says there has been “very little” disruption to their customers, but hurricane season can usually pose problems for connecting international flights through New York.
He feels optimistic for the upcoming season. Generally, June to September is peak game drive season.
“Fingers crossed, if everything holds up, this will be our best year yet,” Beal said.
According to Beal, they made around 650 trips during the pandemic.
“We have about 40 families or couples who were due to travel to Africa in the summer of 2020 who have yet to travel,” he said. “They will go this summer and kind of wipe that slate clean, but there will just be a complete backlog of people wanting to travel.”
Beal explained that young professionals have been able to bank vacation time during the pandemic, while others travel during furloughs between jobs. COVID restrictions are also being relaxed around the world.
“Before the pandemic, about 90% of our revenue and 80% of our customer volume was in Africa, and the rest of our business was in just a few countries in Asia and South America, which were completely stalled for two years,” Beal said. “I’ve already seen over the weekend a few inquiries coming to our website that are looking for specific people from our Asia team to ask about this, so I think it will come back pretty quickly.”
He encourages people who want to travel abroad to plan ahead and be flexible, given high airfare prices, increased demand for accommodation and sold-out flights.
“The lodges are very, very comprehensive,” Beal said. “If people have a specific wish list of what they want to do, I would suggest they watch 2023.”