The Unfriendly Skies: The Post-Pandemic Travel Mess

  • November 7, 2022

  • Eyes4Research

With summer 2022 in the rearview mirror, many travelers are already reminiscing about their summer vacations.  What they might not look back on with the same degree of fondness is the process of actually getting to their destinations. By almost every measure, traveling this past summer was a miserable and frustrating exercise. According to numbers released in August by the Department of Transportation, more than 5,800 complaints were filed by the U.S. traveling audience this past June. That is an increase of nearly 270 percent over June 2019. 

Not surprisingly, cancellations, delays, and other scheduling issues topped the list of traveling audience complaints. The holiday weekend that included Father’s Day and Juneteenth was especially trying for travelers, with over 3,000 flights canceled and thousands more delayed. Adding insult to injury, lost and mishandled baggage and difficulty receiving refunds often went hand in hand with other passenger problems this past summer. 

What is to blame for such a steep decline in the traveler experience and quality of service? COVID-19 continued to affect the daily operations of the entire airline industry. The near-total halt of airplane travel during the height of the pandemic led to layoffs and other drastic cuts in the airline industry labor force, and the airlines have struggled to recover. The rapid increase in travel that followed the end of lockdown left airlines unprepared for the numbers of the traveling audience who were tired of being stuck at home. Staffing shortages all around led to the cancellation of flights, delays, and lost luggage that marred the beginnings of many summer vacations. Pilots and flight attendants pushed back on their overburdened workloads by striking different points throughout the summer, with votes for future work stoppages still underway. 

Another layer of the traveling audience’s litany of complaints is the increased number of incidents of disabled passengers being left on planes, having their wheelchairs damaged while disembarking, or even being injured while traveling. The operational problems that continue to plague airlines only add to the anxiety and humiliation that many in the disabled travel audience face when they enter an airport, as some of the overworked airline staff are not properly trained to tend to the needs of disabled passengers. 

Fortunately, there is a path for recourse for those travelers who have had their vacation plans scuttled by a canceled or delayed flight. In what has become a tried-and-true way to get a company’s attention with a complaint, many passengers turned to social media to express their dissatisfaction with airlines.  The bandwagon of shared negative experiences is one that disgruntled customers in the traveling audience are all too eager to jump on. The increased number of travel audience complaints mentioned earlier noted by the Department of Transportation led them to step in and confront the airline industry about their operations and help consumers get refunds as a result of canceled or delayed flights. 

Read more about the travel industry on the Eyes4Research blog. Eyes4Research also has everything you need to collect high-quality insights from consumers in the travel audience. Our panels are comprised of B2B, B2C, and specialty audiences ready to participate in your next research project. Learn more about our specialty panels here.