Full Flights and High Fares Do Not a Happy Summer Make

Travel News — By Jennifer Pappas on June 11, 2010 at 6:30 am

For many people summer is synonymous with vacation. This typically rolls right into visions of exotic locales, endless cocktails, golden tans and new passport stamps. But the way things are shaping up, the route to this summer’s fling may be very complicated indeed. So let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Oversold flights, fare hikes and employee strikes are just a few of the bumps you’ll experience this summer on your way out of town. And that’s not even considering potential cancelations, new mystery fees or volcanic eruptions.

In regard to fuller flights, some analysts are pointing the finger at business travelers, not beach-bound vacationers. According to the International Air Transport Association, the number of airplane passengers traveling in economy rose 7.4 percent in this year’s first quarter compared to just one year ago. The number of passengers in first- and business-class in the same period rose 7.6 percent. The group’s analysis alleged:

“As business confidence and world trade have turned up sharply, business travelers have returned. Consumer confidence has not recovered in the same way as business confidence.”

Corporate travel agencies like Carlson Wagonlit Travel have also chimed in with their own list of statistics substantiating the rise in business travelers. Dale Eastlund, senior director of the group has stated that airline bookings by North American corporate customers are up 15 percent compared to last year. Remember high school economics? The bottom line is supply and demand. But in this case, double-digit increases in demand are not being met with an increased supply of seats. Quite the contrary; it’s estimated that domestic capacity will only be up 0.2 percent higher this summer than last. Begetting the inevitable question: what exactly does a 0.2 percent seat increase look like? And you thought the middle seat was bad? Just you wait…

Airlines are attempting to cope with this new demand (and lack of supply) by raising fares, in essence throwing up their hands and saying “May the best wallet win!”. Adding further insult to an already gaping wound, ongoing strikes (yes, I’m talking about you British Airways), lingering ash (ahem, Iceland), and hefty fines for camping out on the tarmac (thank you Transportation Department) are all highly probable for causing a snowball effect of flight cancellations.

So what’s the everyday globetrotter to do? Many travel sites like besttraveldeals.net are hoping to capitalize on the airline industries ongoing woes by offering travel deals specifically designed for summer getaways. Taking an extended road trip or cruise are also viable (though clearly less glamorous) alternatives. If you’re dead set on Aruba or Europe, however, you just might have to take a deep breath, get a full charge on the iPod, repeat the phrase “serenity now” and embrace the pitfalls as part of the traveling experience. If all else fails, you can always stay home, right?

National Geographic offers a few tips on how to conquer long lines here.

[Photo: Sindre Ellingsen/Alamy]

Tags: Airline travel, Aruba, business travel, Europe, fare hikes, leisure travel, summer

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