Consumer Alert: Turbulence ahead! American Airlines’ weekend of cancellations may predict trouble during the holiday travel season

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — This consumer alert is all about dominoes. It’s a fun game when sitting around a table with your buddies. Dominoes are not so much fun when you’re stuck in an airport. That was the case for tens of thousands traveling American Airlines this weekend. The dominoes just kept falling, and they landed right smack dab on top on a bunch of stranded folks waiting for flights.

The first domino fell when nasty weather hit the area that houses American’s biggest hub, Dallas Fort Worth. Howling winds grounded planes which also grounded crews who couldn’t get in position for upcoming flights. The second domino fell when many crew members reached their maximum allowable hours and couldn’t fly. And that’s when the whole stack of dominoes came tumbling down.

Remember American furloughed 10,000 employees during the pandemic. Many didn’t come back so the airline was already short-staffed. Two-thirds of the flights American canceled Sunday were because there weren’t enough flight attendants. The rest were because of too few pilots.

But American leaders say help is on the way. Eighteen hundred flight attendants on leave during the pandemic are coming back and 600 new hires will start by year’s end.

But will that be enough to make your upcoming holiday travel a little easier? Probably not. American pilots warn crew shortages will be far worse if and when the federal vaccine mandate goes into effect.

That’s echoed by unions at other airlines and that would make the problems at Southwest far worse. Remember the airline’s massive meltdown last month when cancellations and delays stranded tens of thousands traveling from the west coast?

In August, United Airlines mandated that its employees get vaccinated, but some are holding out and have taken United to court.

Meanwhile, some vaccinated pilots say they won’t fly with unvaccinated co-workers

So what’s all this mean for you and me?

Here’s Deanna’s Do List:

  • Book your flight now. Not only because flights will get more expensive with time, but also because you can’t guarantee you can even get a seat if you wait.
  • Pack extra masks. Planes, trains, and busses all require them.
  • Prepare to pay. According to Kayak, ticket prices are up from even 2019 prices.
  • Know the COVID restrictions along your route. It’s a necessity if you’re traveling a long distance by car. AAA has created a handy dandy COVID restrictions map of America.
  • Pack snacks in your carry-on. Food and beverage service may be limited on flights. And you don’t want to be stuck at 30,000 feet with hungry kiddos.
  • Consider travel insurance. When considering the cost of the insurance, ask yourself how much you’re willing to lose. If the trip is expensive, insurance is worth the Many are now covering COVID-related cancellations, but none covers the fear of catching COVID as a reason to cancel. If the virus is spreading and you might not want to fly, you might want to consider “cancel for any reason” insurance. Forbes magazine has compiled a list of travel insurance policies.
  • Most importantly, buckle up. The holiday travel forecast calls for turbulence ahead.