Jun 30, 2022 - Podcasts

The air travel mess hits July 4th

If you’ve traveled by plane this summer, you already know just how bad air travel is right now. If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard stories of canceled flights, long delays and sky-high ticket prices. As Americans get ready for the Fourth of July, at least one airline is already sending out warnings of what is shaping up to be a chaotic and difficult travel weekend.

  • Plus: how the end of Roe v. Wade could affect IVF.
  • And: the changing face of NATO.

Guests: Axios' Joann Muller and Adriel Bettelheim.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Erica Pandey, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird 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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ERICA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Thursday June 30th. I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what you need to know today: how the end of Roe v. Wade could affect IVF. Plus, the changing face of NATO. But first, today’s One Big Thing: the air travel mess hits the Fourth of July.

ERICA: If you've traveled by plane this summer, you already know just how bad air travel is right now. If you haven't, you've probably heard stories of canceled flights, long delays and sky high ticket prices. As Americans get ready for the 4th of July, at least one airline is already sending out warnings of what could be a chaotic travel weekend. Axios’ Joann Muller joins us now with what to expect. Hey Joann.


ERICA: Let's start with the big picture. How much worse is what we're expecting for the 4th of July than a normal holiday travel weekend.

JOANN: Well, Erica, it's really pretty bad. Bernie Sanders is complaining about this, uh, to the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg. He wrote a letter this week, and said that one out of every five flights in the US has been delayed and airlines are canceling flights four times as often on high travel weekends than they did before the pandemic back in 2019.

ERICA: We heard from Delta airlines this week, warning of “operational challenges” that are expected this weekend. What do they mean by that? And how are they preemptively addressing it?

JOANN: Well, Delta's been having a lot of problems in the last few weeks. I mean, all airlines are, but it's been particularly bad at Delta. What's interesting is they're trying to be a little proactive here. They've already cut about 10% I think of their flights for the summer, which is very extraordinary. They've also now are offering people the opportunity to change their flight off of one of the really busy travel days and do it for free. So they're not letting you like reschedule your entire vacation until all this gets settled, but they are saying, “hey, can you help us out by spreading out the demand a little bit?”

ERICA: And like you said, they’re not the only airline going through this. What is causing all of these air travel disruptions?

JOANN: Well, there's no one thing that you can point to. It's a, it's a big, uh, you know, they talk about the, the big storm, way back in the pandemic, airlines, let go a lot of pilots and other staff. They were expecting the industry to come back kind of slowly. And in fact, demand came back so fast that they don't have enough people to unload the bags or move the airplanes around on the ground. They don't have enough flight attendants. But then if you add just an everyday thunderstorm flights get delayed and the whole system sort of cascades into a disaster. So it takes days to recover from just one regional storm somewhere.

ERICA: We always urge people to be patient as they travel. What else should people be doing to prepare for this travel weekend?

JOANN: It makes sense to fly first thing in the morning if you can. Get the earliest flight of the day, also fly direct if you can. If you don't have to check your bag, don't check your bag. It's not great. Traveling is not great right now, but we just know that people are so desperate to get out and see the world again. And I think they're just gonna suck it up, pay the price for gas, put up with the delay at the airport and just, you know, power through it.

ERICA: Joann Muller covers the future of transportation for Axios. Thanks Joan.

JOANN: Thank you, Erica.

ERICA: In a moment: how access to IVF could change in a post-Roe America.

ERICA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo. In the aftermath of the ruling overturning Roe V. Wade, the questions just seem to keep multiplying – not just about abortion access in the U.S., but also access to infertility care. We asked you what questions you have in this moment, and here's what we heard from one listener about in vitro fertilization.

VICTORIA BORGESS: Hi, Niala and Erica. My name's Victoria Borgess. I'm from Atlanta, Georgia. I am currently undergoing IVF because I am a carrier of a progressive life threatening disease, and what the conversation has been with other fellow moms here that are also going through IVF is, what will if for whatever reason we realize that a pregnancy that we have done is not viable? There's just a lot of concern around the future of IVF for moms like me who are working really hard to make sure that I have a happy, healthy family.

ERICA: Axios senior healthcare editor Adriel Bettelheim is here to shed some light – hi Adriel.

ADRIEL BETTELHEIM: Hi, nice to be with you.

ERICA: Adriel, in vitro fertilization or IVF is when an egg is fertilized outside the body to help a person conceive. I believe it's the most common and effective assisted reproductive technology we have. So how is this abortion ruling even related to IVF?

ADRIEL: Well, you're right. It's, I think, more than 2% of 3.7 million babies born in the U.S. in the most recent year, uh, the feds have tracked this like 2019 were conceived through IVF. So yeah, it's pretty common. And the question now arises that, uh, in states that are imposing their own abortion restrictions in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision, does it reach, beyond simply terminating a pregnancy, could it apply to IVF or emergency contraception or some other type of reproductive care? And it seems that it comes down to whether the state chooses to define a fertilized egg as a legal human entity, because that then would at least in theory, classify an IVF created embryo as a child.

ERICA: What are some of the complications that might arise for a person undergoing IVF iff the state chooses to recognize the embryo as having that personhood?

ADRIEL: As your caller, uh, said, some, some people rely on IVF as a solution to fertility challenges, others use it to avoid passing on a genetic disorder since these embryos can be tested before implantation. But since only 60% or so of the fertilized eggs survive to the blastocyst stage in the lab at what point would they be considered non-viable? Could a physician be accused of somehow affecting the viability of an egg? What if the embryologist just accidentally drops an embryo? And could a clinic move embryos to states where there's no legal questions since they're being, you know, about them being discarded? So there's a lot of questions that factor a provider's intent. So, so this is just very uncharted territory.

ERICA: So, what do we know about the law so far? Could we see IVF banned or scaled back?

ADRIEL: Well, some laws like in Missouri and Utah, for example, appear to experts at least, to make them less likely to apply to IVF, uh, say by defining abortion as terminating an embryo or fetus. In the womb. In Alabama, when they did a law in, I think 2019 explicitly excluded eggs fertilized in the IVF process. The takeaway is that it, it varies dramatically um from state to state. We're all dealing with abstractions here. No one has yet chose to, you know, bring charges against someone, but also no provider of fertility services wants to be the test case. Everyone is, is really walking very gingerly right now and, and figuring out what their rights are.

ERICA: Adriel Bettelheim is senior healthcare editor at Axios. Thanks Ariel.

ADRIEL: Thanks so much.

ERICA: One more story before we go today. Yesterday, at what officials call one of the most consequential summits in the history of NATO, President Biden announced the creation of a permanent headquarters for U.S. forces stationed in Poland. And he announced new deployments of troops and weapons to Europe as Russia's war in Ukraine rages on.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: In a moment when Putin has shattered peace in and attacked the very, very tenants of rule based order, the United States and our allies we're gonna step up. We're stepping up. We're proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been and it’s as important as it ever has been.

ERICA: And in a historic breakthrough for the alliance, Sweden and Finland are on the brink of becoming full NATO members after Turkey dropped its opposition on Tuesday. This would end decades of neutrality from the Scandinavian countries.

ERICA: That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or reach out to me on twitter. You can also text us at (202) 918-4893. I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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