The unprecedented lack of staffing in the hospital industry is creating ongoing service issues for travelers.
The impact of COVID-19 isolation, workers moving to other professions and the mass lay-offs that occurred early in the pandemic have wreaked havoc, creating an ongoing chaotic matrix of cancellations, delays, and service interruptions. Industry leaders are expecting the situation to continue for at least a year and advised travelers who are flying both abroad and domestically to prepare.
Flight tracker FlightAware indicates that in early April, more than 10,000 U.S. flights were canceled or delayed and the situation has continued throughout the month over Easter weekend. Almost all airlines were affected by staff shortages, technology glitches, and resulting logistical issues. Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier, and Spirit all suffered service interruptions, exacerbated by severe weather disturbances across the country at major airports.
It is unclear whether the airlines have adequately anticipated the sudden surge in demand precipitated by the public’s perception, real or not, that the pandemic is at an end. Consulting firm Oliver Wyman indicates a pilot shortage exceeding 12,000 by 2023 as the pilot population ages into retirement. Because of the necessity for security and background checks, the recruitment period for airline and airport staffing has a much longer cycle than in many other hospitality industry segments.
Like the airlines, hotels and restaurants struggle to meet the surge. Hotels have cut back on housekeeping services and restaurants are struggling to employ enough staff, even as pay for new hires has dramatically increased. There are currently 1.7 million fewer positions filled in the restaurant industry than before the pandemic as many workers moved on to other professions. Combined with labor issues, consumers are facing higher prices for their vacations and business travel as industry segments try to improve their balance sheets and adjust pricing to meet the sudden increase in demand.
The situation extends beyond US borders. British Airways canceled more than 200 flights over the Easter weekend affecting an estimated 20,000 passengers and flights with routes to the Far East and the U.S. until September. EasyJet also postponed hundreds of flights over Easter.
Experts recommend travelers anticipate delays and service interruptions and have alternative plans in the event of cancellations, leaving additional time for arriving at any destination for a scheduled event or other travel.