Suiteness BlogThe cause of travel delaysWritten by Blaire McCoyPublished May 9, 2023

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The cause of travel delays

Traveling has always been a significant aspect of our lives. It allows us to explore new cultures, meet new people, and broaden our horizons. However, in recent months, travelers have been facing unprecedented delays and disruptions that have made their journeys frustrating and stressful. The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a shortage of staff, and poor system outages have caused massive delays and cancellations in the travel industry. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the travel delays issues people have been experiencing, who the main causes are, what the administration is recommending to do, and what this means for travelers.

Main Causes of Travel Delays

The COVID-19 pandemic is the primary cause of the travel delays people have experienced in the past few months. As countries around the world scrambled to contain the spread of the virus, they implemented travel restrictions and border closures, which severely impacted the airline industry. Many airlines were forced to cancel flights or reduce their capacity, causing long delays and disruptions for travelers.

The shortage of staff is another significant cause of travel delays. The pandemic forced many airlines to furlough their employees or reduce their working hours, which resulted in a shortage of staff. This has made it challenging for airlines to meet the demand for flights, resulting in long delays and cancellations.

Additionally, there have been instances where weather conditions have caused significant travel disruptions. Extreme weather events such as hurricanes, snowstorms, and heavy rainfalls have forced airlines to cancel or delay flights, causing inconvenience for travelers.

What the Administration is Recommending to Do

The Biden administration has been closely monitoring the travel industry's disruptions and has taken several steps to mitigate the impact on travelers. The administration has urged airlines to be transparent with their customers about flight cancellations and delays and to offer refunds or alternative flights when necessary.

The Biden administration plans to propose regulations that would require airlines to compensate passengers and cover their expenses for cancellations and significant delays that are within a carrier's control. This is a groundbreaking move in the United States, bringing the country in closer alignment with long-standing EU regulations that require airlines to pay compensation for delayed or cancelled flights.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to propose the regulations through a rulemaking process, which has not yet begun. The compensation would come on top of existing refund requirements for canceled flights. This move is expected to provide much-needed relief to travelers who have been affected by flight delays and cancellations, especially during the pandemic.

Airlines would be required to provide accommodations, meals, and rebooking costs in cases of controllable cancellations and significant delays. The upcoming rulemaking will also seek to better define what exactly is a controllable delay or cancellation. Currently, delays caused by issues such as crew shortages and aircraft maintenance are considered by the DOT to be controllable, while disruptions caused by weather, security concerns, or air traffic control challenges aren't considered to be within an airline's control.

In addition, delays caused by an aircraft arriving late to the gate from a previous flight aren't defined as controllable, even when that late arrival was caused by an issue within the airline's control. The DOT also does not currently have a specific definition for "significant delay," though in a rulemaking initiated last summer, the department proposed that flight schedule changes of more than three hours on domestic flights and more than six hours on international flights be defined as "significant."

The trade group Airlines for America (A4A), which counts the six largest U.S. carriers among its membership, said that airlines already do everything they can to ensure that flights depart and arrive on time, without compromising safety. A4A provided data showing that the U.S. flight cancellation rate this year is lower than it was in the two years prior to the pandemic, though the delay rate remains higher. Among cancellations since last August, 33.7% were attributable to airlines, while 66.3% were caused by weather, national airspace system delays, or security concerns.

However, the proposed regulations aim to ensure that airlines take responsibility for cancellations and significant delays that are within their control. The DOT's planned airline compensation rulemaking is the latest of several steps the Biden administration is undertaking to strengthen consumer protections for airline passengers. Among other items, the DOT has also proposed broader ticket refund requirements, bag fee refund requirements for late baggage delivery, and new ancillary fee display requirements early in the booking path.

The DOT also plans a rulemaking that would require airlines to enable children to sit with an adult guardian at no extra cost. These measures are expected to provide much-needed relief to travelers who have been affected by flight delays and cancellations.

What This Means for Travelers

The travel delays and disruptions caused by the pandemic and the shortage of staff have been frustrating for travelers. Many have had to rearrange their travel plans or cancel their trips altogether, resulting in financial losses and inconvenience.

However, the steps taken by the administration and airlines to mitigate the impact of these disruptions are providing some relief for travelers. Airlines are now offering more flexible booking options, such as allowing customers to change their flights without penalty, which is helping travelers to plan their trips with more confidence.

The increase in staffing levels by airlines should also help to reduce delays and disruptions in the future, providing a better travel experience for customers.

The measures implemented to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have also made air travel safer, reducing the risk of infection for travelers. Although these measures may be inconvenient, they are necessary to ensure that air travel can continue safely during the pandemic.

The travel delays and disruptions experienced by travelers in the past few months have been unprecedented. The COVID-19 pandemic and the shortage of staff have caused significant disruptions in the travel industry, resulting in frustration and inconvenience for travelers.

The steps taken by the Biden administration and airlines to mitigate the impact of these disruptions are providing some relief for travelers. Flexible booking options, increased staffing levels, and measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are all helping to improve the travel experience for customers.

As always, if you need help, Suiteness is here for you.