Even under the best of circumstances, traveling during the holidays is crowded, unpleasant and expensive, and these are hardly the best of circumstances.
Due to the pandemic and supply chain issues, flights and cancellations are more common than ever. And renewed covid outbreaks have left planes short of crew.
But the main problem is that some pilots bought out or chose to retire early, and when travel started to pick up again in 2021, many airlines were short.
Although companies like American Airlines are working to solve the pilot shortage, even the CEO admits that the industry will not return to pre-pandemic levels until the end of next year, because there are not enough senior pilots available for the first generation train others.
Southwest Airlines employees have also alleged that the company’s new management is giving itself huge bonuses, rather than investing in the employees necessary to maintain the airlines reputation for first-class service.
The result of these labor shortages and other issues is that the overall supply of available flights has decreased this year, as more flights have been cut from airline schedules due to pilot shortages. But the demand for travel has not decreased, as people still want to see their families or go on holiday, especially with the memories of the isolation of 2020 still fresh in the minds of many people.
And you know very well what happens when high demand meets low supply: higher ticket prices. Finding cheap air travel won’t be easy this holiday season, as CNBC notes “Domestic airfare deals over Thanksgiving average $274, up 19% from 2021, and domestic round trips over Christmas will $390, up 40% from last year.”
How to Save on Holiday Travel, According to an Expert
Although travel costs are on the rise this year, there are still ways to save, according to an expert.
Kathy Sudekis is a leisure travel consultant with Acendas Travel, a $200 million full-service travel agency based in Kansas City that is part of the larger BCD Travel company.
Sudekis has an extensive travel background and, in case you’re curious, is actually the mother of “Ted Lasso” creator Jason Sudekis. (Also, “Cheers” actor George Wendt is her brother.) After enjoying Thanksgiving with her family, she jumped on the phone to offer advice on how to see your family on the holiday this without breaking the bank.
Let’s say that all the holidays have snuck up on you, and now it’s the middle of the month and you still don’t have plans. Can you still find something affordable, or are you going to pay through the nose?
Well, all the prices are higher at the moment, but if you want to try and be sensible, the key to that is being flexible. And I’ve said it for years as a tip and I want to share, it’s travel on Christmas Eve, travel on Christmas Day.
When our children were small, Santa Claus would come here at about 6:30 in the morning and the flower would be off the rose about 10 am. And we would get on a noon plane to Chicago. And you just miss peeling potatoes through Christmas dinner.
If you are flying on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, will the tickets be cheaper?
Oh, yes. They will be cheaper because there is more inventory left. The question is, what price range? I mean, it gets crazier as the days go by.
What are some other pieces of advice you have for last minute travelers? How can they avoid high costs or just the general hassles of flying these days?
Well, you know, high cost will be synonymous with the vacation period if you are not able to be flexible. And you look at some of these holidays to think about traveling that you wouldn’t think about any other time, like flying over a birthday or flying over an anniversary, those kinds of things.
But by traveling on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Hanukkah or New Years, all those kinds of things, that’s how you’re going to save money. So being flexible is the key to this whole thing.
People in the United States consider Saturday to Saturday the traditional holiday week. Think Thursday to Thursday. Tuesday to Tuesday is even better, of course, as Tuesday and Wednesday are the most reasonable flights.
If you had a choice, you would choose the earliest flight of the day. You need a boarding pass, especially for this holiday. If you don’t have a boarding pass, if you thought you were going to go early and leave at five in the morning, you will have to leave at four in the morning to get to the airport. You need to be aggressive early.
If you do not have a boarding pass, you only need to check the baggage if it is necessary. And if you check baggage for the holidays, put all the wrapped gifts in there so that’s another blip on the TSA screen. They are known to open gifts that were tightly sealed.
The airline industry is having trouble hiring enough pilots, but it’s also having trouble hiring enough employees, period. There have been a lot of complaints about slow service, a lot of cancellations, and a lot of delays, and people are getting very angry at airline employees these days. What would you say is the current state of travel?
You know, I’m continuing to travel and ramps up quite substantially. I’m not too impressed and I’m not caught up in one of these things.
But the key to managing anxiety about worrying about all those things is, you know, having a plan B and C available if your plane is delayed or things like that. I hate to be crass or commercial, but a travel agent is in your back pocket… it’s much easier to call and communicate with them than an airline directly or their airline website.
Or if you are traveling with your family, hold someone in the line and be nice to the people around you so they let hubby come back to the line or mom come back to the line with the kids . You have to be as cool and calm as you can be, when it comes to these airline employees, and this is a nightmare if you’re going to a wedding or a graduation or a holiday dinner, you know.
So, those are the times when you need to make sure you have things under control or have a plan B. Don’t fly on sea day. Go the night before. Stay in an airport location. I mean, they’re not cheap, but I think you could get something under $200 anywhere.
How do you think travel as a whole compares to last year, when there have been many reports of rude customers and flight delays due to Omicron, which thankfully have only died down. How is it these days?
Well, I have to tell you, economically, people are still going. People are taking advantage of what we call revenge travel, where they are going anyway. They don’t care, they’ve been in their homes too long. My experience in the Midwest is that no one goes on vacation without an oceanfront room. Everyone is going for it.