Airline delays and cancellations killed flight hacks
Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte to New York this weekend would have cried and had panic attacks after spending six hours on the track with “no air conditioning, no food, no drink service”. Statistically speaking, there is a good chance that at least one of them is an AAAdvantage member. Flight hacking — collecting rewards points, max-size carry-ons, TSA PreCheck — has long been the domain of the savvy traveler, providing some semblance of control in a chaotic world. Others may be helpless dots navigating the airline oligopoly, but you read new york tips Time and blogs with names like Johnny the Travel Genius.
Except now the airlines are sell tickets for flights they know they cannot staff and will have to cancel, and, at least for the first four months of the year, causing more than half flight delays that trap their customers in travel hell – more than storms, air traffic control capacity and security issues. (As Robert Kuttner of The American Perspective recently Explainstaffing shortages are largely self-inflicted and profit-driven.) Combine that with the demand for summer travel and a bit bad weatherand we landed in our current mess. Good luck getting around that by downloading an airline’s app. The flight hack may have always been an illusion. Now it’s dead.
According to flight tracking company FlightAware, 2.8 percent of US airline flights have been canceled so far this year, and 20% have been delayed, which is bad – and not all that different from pre-pandemic travel: in 2019, the rate of cancellations were 2.1 percent, and delays were at 17 percent. Holiday weekends were real glove this year, with four times as many cancellations as in 2019. And no airline is immune — on the weekend of Friday July 4, 45% of JetBlue flights have been delayed, as well as a third of United, American Airlines and Southwest flights. Delta fared best, with only a quarter of its departures late. Consumer complaints against airlines increased 300% from pre-pandemic levels and with ticket prices go up, we are now paying more for the privilege of a miserable experience. (To say nothing of $50 million bailout this was intended to keep employed workers and airlines prepared for a rebound in travel.)
What is the leverage of a traveler on a powerful airline? An air hostess “tips for surviving the trip nowreads more like a guide to preparing for defeat than any kind of insider secrets. She suggests leaving a full day early to reduce your chances of missing your planned plans and flying straight. ( She also advises bringing a sweater.) Bloomberg recommends to have lots of money. The street remember you to “know your luggage”, and the Washington Job suggests message airlines on social media when you have a problem. (Twitter is currently littered with award members from various airlines complaining, understandably, that their status has meant little in terms of cancellations, delays and paying out of pocket for other logistics.)
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the man everyone is begging to do something about it, even offered its own advice, encouraging travelers to know how much their points are worth in cash when they get a refund. (This was after Buttigieg’s own flight was delayed and he received $112.07 refunded instead of $30 points.)
In the absence of significant government intervention — fines, block mergersprotecting consumers of rising prices – the airlines will laugh in your face when you scroll through The Points Guy while getting your third round of COVID at the airport.
In a sea of useless advice, there have been a recent tip from an industrial worker who could actually save a traveler time and money: “If it’s less than 7 hours – DRIVE!” Or better yet, take the bus.