Airlines dealing with holiday travel surge

National News

FILE – In this Wednesday, March 17, 2021 file photo, travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. Mother’s Day weekend meant bigger crowds at U.S. airports. The Transportation Security Administration said its agents screened slightly more than 1.7 million people on Sunday, May 9 the highest number since March 2020, when travel was collapsing because of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

The holiday weekend is fast approaching. 3.5 million people are expected to take to the skies. This as cancellations and delays continue to pile up, airlines scrambling to cope with a massive travel surge.

“We get on our flight and they tell us there’s no fuel…and the pilot comes on the line and says, ‘This is the first time in 30 years I’ve been told there’s not fuel,'” said Joe Boles.

That was in Montana, Tuesday. After a detour to Kansas City and a missed connection at O’Hare, Boles has no idea when he’ll get on a plane home. And he’s not alone.

José and Cristal Hernandez are stuck in Chicago with no luggage after severe weather led them to miss their connection. Including their children, they have tickets that need rebooking.

“We’re on standby and we’re trying to see if we can just book something for Thursday because that’s the next flight,” said José.

Because their missed flight was travel-related, the couple is now on the hook for all their food, hotel and transportation expenses. But what is going on?

Even before this past week’s severe weather, airlines have been pre-emotively canceling hundreds of flights.

“The recovery of air travel has happened so fast the airlines are scrambling to get enough flights in the air without the labor force often to back that up. You throw in some storms and those backup crews aren’t there,” said Professor Joe Schwieterman, of DePaul University.

So then what? Every airline’s policy is different.

But in general, most airlines will refund the entire price of the ticket when they cancel the flight or the delay is over a certain number of hours. Passengers also have the right to refuse the airline’s initial offer.

“The first choice given may not be the best for you. The implication is you may get on the phone, get in line or use the website to do it yourself,” said Schwieterman.

And if you are traveling this weekend, just remember to activate your airline’s travel alerts on your phone so that if you do experience a cancellation or a significant delay you can rebook immediately without having to waste time at the airport.

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