San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

Staffing hitches, fare hikes await summer crowds


Airlines and tourist destinatio­ns are expecting monster crowds this summer as travel restrictio­ns ease and pandemic fatigue overcomes lingering fear of contractin­g COVID-19 during travel.

Many forecaster­s believe the number of travelers will match or even exceed levels of prepandemi­c days. However, airlines have thousands fewer employees than they did in 2019, and that has at times contribute­d to widespread flight cancellati­ons. People who are only now booking travel for the summer are experienci­ng the sticker shock.

Domestic airline fares for summer are averaging more than $400 a round trip, 24% higher than this time in 2019, before the pandemic, and a whopping 45% higher than a year ago, according to traveldata firm Hopper.

Airlines blame the steeper fares on jet fuel roughly doubling in price over 2019. It’s more than that, however. The number of flights has not returned to pre-pandemic levels even though demand for travel is surging.

Airlines that paid employees to quit when travel collapsed in 2020 are now scrambling to hire enough pilots, flight attendants and other workers. The largest four U.S. airlines — American, Delta, United and Southwest — together had roughly 36,000 fewer employees at the start of 2022 than before the pandemic, a drop of nearly 10%, despite aggressive hiring that started last year.

Airlines are trimming summer schedules to avoid overloadin­g their staffs and canceling flights at the last minute. Last week, Delta cut about 100 flights a day, or 2%, from its July schedule, and more than 150 flights a day on average, or 3%, in August. Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue previously reduced summer flights.

When travelers reach their destinatio­n, they will be greeted with hotel rates that are up about one-third from last year. Hotels are filling up faster, too. Hotel companies blame the higher prices on increasing cost for supplies as well as workers in a tight labor market.

Air travelers check in for flights Thursday at Denver Internatio­nal Airport. The number of passengers this summer is expected to match or even exceed levels of pre-pandemic days.

the Department of Health’s computer system and downloaded confidenti­al data.

fist and grabbed her hair.

During the flight’s descent, the attendant had asked Quinonez to buckle her seat belt, stow her tray table, and put on her face mask properly. Instead, Quinonez began recording the attendant on her cell phone, pushed her, then stood and punched the woman before other passengers intervened, authoritie­s said.

The incident was part of an escalation in unruly behavior by airline passengers amid the coronaviru­s pandemic and led the president of the flight attendants’ union to ask for more federal air marshals on planes.

that haven’t been confirmed by tests, for example, and may also wind down federal reporting from rehabilita­tion and mental health facilities that aren’t major intake points for virus cases, according to a draft of the plan that was obtained by Bloomberg News.

Early in the pandemic, when COVID-19 tests were sparse and it could take days to confirm cases, the U.S. encouraged hospitals to report all likely infections. But since most hospitals now test all patients on admission, suspect cases can be confirmed or ruled out within hours.

COVID-19 guidance for hospital reporting is regularly reviewed by U.S. health officials and has been revised several times already amid changes to the best ways to track the pandemic. The latest recommenda­tions are in their final stages of review. The changes would only apply to the federal collection of data, and states can still ask health care facilities to report other types of informatio­n.

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 ?? David Zalubowski / Associated Press ??
David Zalubowski / Associated Press

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