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Supply Chain Management

Rob Handfield Weighs in on Summer Travel Surge

Summer is officially here – which for many Americans means it is time to travel. 

Rob Handfield, professor of operations and supply chain management and director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, provides expert insight into the summer travel surge this year. 

Q&A with Rob Handfield

1. What does summer travel look like this year?

Travel is indeed going to be super busy this summer. Travel levels have reached pre-pandemic levels, when they were at an all-time high. Many people are traveling after the long COVID restrictions, taking holidays, visiting relatives and many who took early retirement are going on travel that has been on their “bucket list” for years.  

2. What are some of the main factors affecting these rising travel costs? 

There are several problems. First, there is a massive shortage of pilots, flight attendants, and airline and airport workers. This is due to the overall labor shortage in the economy, as well as the fact that many of these people were let go during the pandemic, and did not return to work.

Second, fuel prices for jet fuel have reached an all-time high. Fuel costs constitute almost 50% of the cost of a flight, and these have been going up.

Third, with demand being so high, and the labor shortage, airlines have had to cut back the number of flights they have scheduled. This has led to even higher demand for seats – and the airline’s model is such that when planes start to fill up, prices go up exponentially, especially for short-term reservations and business class seats. These elements combined are leading to higher than ever travel costs.

3. Do you predict a large number of flight cancellations/delays due to these factors? If so, what should travelers be aware of?

There have been a large number of flight cancellations. When you look at the crew shortages, and the fact that there are fewer flights, people are finding it tougher to make connections, and the recent storms have also created disruptions leading to large volumes of cancellations. When there is a wave of cancellations, it is like a domino effect – there is less room for error, and the number of flights canceled escalates.

4. Tips on traveling on a budget this summer? Is it possible? 

Tough to do! It’s possible – you can look out for last-minute flight deals. But these are few and far between. Think about driving or taking Amtrac? If you are traveling in Europe – then Eurail is definitely the way to go – the train systems there are excellent!

We are likely to see elevated plane fares for some time. One thing you can do is plan ahead – buying flights early is always a good strategy to get the best deals!