Oct 11, 2021 - Podcasts

The forecast for holiday travel doesn’t look good

Southwest Airlines cancelled nearly 2,000 of their flights over the weekend, citing weather and air traffic control issues. And while the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed staffing shortages in air traffic control, they also said it was likely that the airline was experiencing their own staffing problems. This could be a preview of what the holiday travel season will look like.

  • Plus, women’s heart health in a pandemic.
  • And, why retailers are side-stepping the Columbus Day sales.

Guests: Axios' Joann Muller, Marisa Fernandez, and Jennifer Kingson.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday October 11th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s how we’re making you smarter today: women’s heart health in a pandemic. Plus, why retailers are side-stepping the Columbus Day sales.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: the forecast for holiday travel doesn’t look good.

Over the weekend, Southwest airlines canceled nearly 2000 flights, citing weather and air traffic control issues. And while the F.A.A. confirmed staffing shortages in air traffic control, they also said it was likely Southwest was experiencing their own staffing problems. Unfortunately, this is possibly a preview of the upcoming holiday travel season. Axios transportation reporter Joann Muller is reporting out what those travel headaches could look like. Good morning, Joann.


NIALA: Is this staffing problem at Southwest related to vaccine mandates for workers. And could we see this at other airlines?

JOANN: Well, we think it might be related to the vaccine mandate. There had been a lot of rumors and talk of sick-outs and strikes. You know, this is something we, we did worry about with, with all employers. Is whether it will be hard to keep their workers. And we're starting to see that and it's going to affect everybody.

NIALA: We've talked before about the other problems airlines have because of the pandemic. Can they add capacity fast enough for the holidays?

JOANN: Well, most airlines will be adding more flights and bigger planes over the holidays. Not all of them have announced this yet. So we'll see. United for instance, did announce some, uh, added capacity, but the fact of the matter is unless the business travel resumes, the airlines are a little nervous about adding extra capacity because they don't make a lot of money on leisure flights. And so they are adding as much as they feel comfortable with. But it does not seem like it's going to be enough to meet the travel demand for this holiday. Remember a lot of people have been stuck at home and there's a ton of pent up demand for travel. And we're going to see whether there's enough capacity very soon.

NIALA: And is it too late to book an airline ticket for the holidays, whether we're talking about Thanksgiving or December holidays?

JOANN: You know, it's not too late, but you really better get on it. If you're waiting for prices to go down, they won't. So you ought to buy your ticket soon. And if you have a lot of frequent flyer miles, use those first, because they're the most flexible. And I've heard a lot of people say, book your rental car before you actually buy your airplane ticket because you may not have a car to drive once you get there.

NIALA: Axios’ transportation correspondent, Joanne Muller from Detroit. Thanks, Joann.

JOANN: Thank you Niala.

NIALA: We’ll be back in a moment with alarming data on women’s heart health.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. One of the big questions coming out of the pandemic has been its effect on other health issues. Cardiovascular health has been a concern, especially for women even before the pandemic, but now, those concerns among researchers are growing, given the strong links between psychological stress and heart disease. And, we know stress among women has only gotten worse over the past year and a half. Marisa Fernandez is part of Axios’ health team and has been reporting out this story. Hi Marisa.


NIALA: Marisa, I think we should first point out that diagnosing women with heart conditions was a problem even before the pandemic. Can you tell us why?

MARISA: Sometimes when women come into the emergency room, they're not necessarily feeling heard, even if they do have chest pains. There's a lot of studies out there that even before the pandemic that have shown that women do not necessarily get treated right away as, um, as quick as men. Um, and then there's also the other component where women tend to have heart disease that isn't in some of the main arteries. And so that part of it is overlooked in terms of the diagnoses and also, the scanning.

NIALA: And so are you saying that the way that we diagnose heart disease has tended to be towards how men have heart attacks, for example?

MARISA: Absolutely. Yes. There's a key component to when we scan heart, uh, and chests. A lot of it has to do with the symptoms that men experience, which are those typical heart attack symptoms that you would know. Massive chest pains, fainting, feeling like your shoulder or your back is-is in a lot of pain. Sometimes women have fatigue for more than three days. Sometimes there's a jaw pain. Sometimes there's vomiting or nausea. Sometimes you feel extremely lightheaded. Those are signs that doctors need to look out for.

NIALA: What are researchers concerned about now, given the stress of the pandemic?

MARISA: Women disproportionately have been dealing with these issues. This has also been proven in short-term natural disasters, more women have had, um, emerging heart disease in areas where, like, there's just been some signs of severe exterior stress on a woman compared to, you know, we have economic loss, we have job loss. And so now it's even more crucial to get women that have a history of heart disease or complications back into the doctor's offices from a more than a year off. And then screen the whole new generation of young women who are probably now at risk for a cardiac event down the road because of the pandemic. We're not going to see women having more heart attacks than ever next year, but c-cardiologists have told me that they're extremely concerned about the five, seven year mark down the road when intervention that could have been done isn't happening right now.

NIALA: How does this fit into the larger trend of worsening health in the pandemic?

MARISA: The trend essentially has been is that more-more people have been polling, how they have been more anxious. They’ve felt more depressive symptoms, but also it's just that people have felt like they've been unhealthier during this time. Their social isolation is up, that they've been eating more, they've been exercising less, they've been drinking more, they've been smoking more. And those are just all basic factors that we know are just terrible for our heart health.

NIALA: Marisa’s got so much more about this in her reporting. I'll tweet out a link so you can read her story. Axios health care reporter, Marisa Fernandez. Thank you, Marisa.

MARISA: Thank you so much.

NIALA: Columbus Day used to be a good time to buy a mattress, new linens or even a new car, but more and more retailers are starting to distance themselves from Columbus Day. And it's not just because of politics - reports Axios’ Jennifer Kingson. Good morning, Jennifer.

JENNIFER KINGSON: Hi Niala, great to talk to you.

NIALA: Jennifer, today is Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. President Biden became the first president to declare that in a proclamation on Friday. How has it changed how retailers are responding to what used to be big Columbus day sales?

JENNIFER: You know, when I started reporting out this story, Niala, I thought the immediate answer was going to be that everybody was running shy from acknowledging the holiday. But what it turned out to be was a real supply chain issue with everyone this year and last year during the pandemic having trouble keeping inventory on their shelves. In order to run promotions like a Columbus Day sale stores have to start planning weeks in advance. And the last thing any of them want is to start touting a sale or merchandise in stock that they can't deliver.

It's also a convenient way to sidestep the controversy that could arise. There are many states that retain the federal name of Columbus Day. The problem for a national retail chain though is that you would then have to put out various different sets of marketing materials, calling it one thing or another. That adds costs and the pitfalls of offending someone. So I think a lot of them just decided to cancel the holiday.

NIALA: Would you say that this is part of then a bigger trend away from big sales events for retailers?

JENNIFER: That's what my sources are telling me. I spoke to industry analysts who cover retail, and they're saying that large ongoing sales are going to be more of the norm going forward. Retailers are trying to nudge us in this direction that the whole fall season is a sale season. And that is going to work in interesting ways as the stores themselves see what they can keep in stock amidst the pandemic circumstances.

NIALA: Axios’ Jennifer Kingson. Thank you, Jennifer.

JENNIFER: Thank you.

NIALA: That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at [email protected]

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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