Summer 2022 could be busiest travel season since before COVID

CHICAGO (WLS) — It’s been three years since O’Hare’s people mover has been in operation on a 24/7 basis, but Monday the airport’s automated transit system resumed its round-the-clock service between terminals and parking lots following years of construction and pandemic-related delays. The resumption couldn’t come at a better time, as leisure travel is fast approaching pre-pandemic levels.

“We’re anticipating summer 2022 to be as big or bigger than summer 2019. Folks are ready to travel again particularly domestically and to Europe,” said Willis Orlando of Scott’s Cheap Flights.

But is the travel industry, particularly airlines and airports, ready to handle the surge? Recent weeks have shown the opposite, with mass cancellations nationwide as labor shortages continue, despite recent hiring efforts.

“When you talk about backup capacity, you’re really talking about extra airplanes and extra crews, so if things go bad, airlines get stuck at a certain airport because of weather, they can still run the schedules with the extra resources they have,” said Prof. Joseph Schweiterman, School Of Public Policy, Depaul University. “That’s something they haven’t been able to do for a while and we’re feeling it with these problems.”

So what should the summer traveler do? First, industry experts say to avoid the busy July 4th or Memorial Day weekends.

“If you can fly somewhere more off the beaten path you are more likely to do well. Fly on an off day. Fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday you’re always going to be better off,” Orlando advised. “And then again, for those summer trips if you have a chance to do it, fly late May or late June or late August. If you want to fly the middle of July you’re going to pay more and you’re more likely to face those crowds and delays. “

And while pent up demand, combined with an increase in fuel prices has already led to an increase in fares, industry experts say it’s still possible to get lower-cost summer tickets, as long as travelers are able to remain flexible with their dates and destinations.

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