May 9, 2023 - Podcasts

What to know ahead of summer travel season

If you’ve been planning or looking forward to summer travel, you’ve probably noticed high prices for many flights. Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick has what we need to look out for this summer.

  • Plus, Asian Americans excluded from the climate movement work for change.
  • Plus, Uber doubles down on carpooling.

Guests: Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick, Ayurella Horn-Muller and Joann Muller.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Robin Linn 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 Tuesday, May 9th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Today: Asian Americans excluded from the climate movement…work for change. Plus, Uber doubles down on carpooling. But first, what to know ahead of a record-breaking summer travel season – that’s today’s One Big Thing.

Summer airfares, and Biden proposes new air travel rules

NIALA: If you've been planning or looking forward to summer travel like me, you've probably noticed the extraordinarily high prices for many flights. And just yesterday, the President announced a new proposal to compensate some passengers whose flights were delayed or canceled. What else did we need to look out for at airports this summer? Axios’ Alex Fitzpatrick is here to help. Hey, Alex.

ALEX FITZPATRICK: Hey, how's it going?

NIALA: Alex, so I mentioned skyrocketing airline ticket prices. Is this just anecdotal or are things really that bad?

ALEX: It depends on how you look at the data. Overall, airline ticket prices, just ticket prices, are still not where they were pre-pandemic. They're still lower. That being said, there is certainly higher prices on certain routes, uh, given, you know, more demand and less availability as airlines kind of rejigger where they fly and how often they fly. Everybody in the aviation world – from airlines to the FAA to the TSA – they're all preparing for what they think is gonna be an absolute record summer of air travel. Fees are always a problem, as well. You've got your check bag fees and your seat upgrade fees and different fees that the airlines charge, and that adds up.

NIALA: What about staffing? Are airlines and airports equipped to deal with all of this volume of passengers?

ALEX: It's a really great question. Airlines and airports are staffing up. Uh, a bunch of them have been hiring thousands of people over the past few months, and that ranges from pilots to flight attendants to grounds crew to people who work at the airports, in an effort to make sure that they're ready for this sort of, you know, onslaught of demand that's coming.

NIALA: Alex, our winter travel woes are not that far behind us. There are a lot of people who still probably have not recovered from their holiday travel problems. I just spoke about the new travel rules President Biden has proposed. Is he trying to fix this situation here?

ALEX: So what he's proposed is essentially codifying something that the airlines have almost all agreed to do, which is basically if you get a severe delay or a cancellation that forces you to, you know, book a hotel or a car or get some food while you're waiting for your next flight home or wherever you're going, the airlines will reimburse you for that cost. The rules that he's proposing will basically just codify that and make it mandatory for them to do so.

NIALA: Alex, I’m wondering if some people are getting more protections than others from some of these travel woes. How much of a difference are privileges like certain credit cards making in all this?

ALEX: It can be significant. If you're in a place where you have access to these elite cards that cost a ton of money, or if you fly enough that you've got, you know, platinum medallion status, you are gonna be treated better and have better protections than people who don't have access to those things and are maybe traveling on a low cost airline because they're trying to save some money. So the stratification of what you can get as consumer protections is significant.

NIALA: Any other advice for people headed outta town this summer?

ALEX: I personally would not travel on any major holiday weekends this summer. I know that's unavoidable for a lot of people, but boy, I would just really stay away from airports, you know, Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend. All signs are that it's gonna be packed, and it's gonna be not a very fun experience.

NIALA: Alex Fitzpatrick edits Axios’ What's Next? Thanks, Alex.

ALEX: Thank you.

Uber doubles down on carpooling

NIALA: And in some other transportation news, Uber says it’s expanding its shared rides service, in response to rising fare prices and climate concerns. Axios’ Joann Muller got the story first. Hey, Joann.

JOANN MULLER: Hi, Niala. Uber is bringing back carpooling, in an effort to make ride hailing a little less expensive, and also to make cities more livable. So, the idea is if you can get more butts in the seats of fewer cars, you'll actually, uh, with congestion and emissions in cities. And also it's a cheaper alternative for some people. So it's called UberX Share and in the United States now, it's gonna be in 14 cities. Baltimore, Miami, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. are the newest ones.

If you book UberX Share, you'll get an upfront discount no matter whether you're in the car alone or someone else rides along. But if you're matched with a co-writer along the way on your trip, you can end up saving 20% off the total fare. You don't have to be headed to the same destination, just in the same direction.

What's interesting to me also is that, just recently, Lyft eliminated shared rides, to simplify its offerings. But Uber says no, this is something that they're going to expand and that they think they can do it, profitably and offering a lower cost alternative to their customers. And they also say that this will help them achieve their goal of zero emissions by 2030.

NIALA: Joann Muller writes the What’s Next newsletter.

In a moment, how many Asian Americans are working to have a bigger voice in the climate movement.

Asian Americans excluded from the climate movement work for change.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Asian Americans are working to change their legacy in climate and environmental research and activism after long feeling excluded. Axios’ Ayurella Horn-Muller has been reporting on this. Hi, Ayurella.

AYURELLA HORN-MULLER: Hi Niala. How are you?

NIALA: Why have Asian Americans felt excluded from climate research and activism?

AYURELLA: What I'm hearing from my sources is that although Asian Americans have been involved since the very beginning of the environmental justice movement, they are being left out of the political conversation left out of leadership spaces left out of both academic and federal agencies in terms of representation in the National Climate Movement.

So in 2018, Asian Americans made up roughly 5.6% of the U.S. population, but earned only 3% of ecology PhDs, and they were markedly absent from leadership positions and ecology. One big example is the National Science Foundation, which is an independent federal agency that is a large source of funding in academia. Now, the New York Times wrote earlier this year about the NSF and how Asians encounter the highest rate of rejections at the agency. The success rate of proposals led by Asian scientists is about 20% below the overall rate, which is a disparity that the New York Times noted has persisted for two decades, and yet still today, the NSF does not consider Asian Americans to be an underrepresented minority, which excludes them from diversity supplements that may increase support for both investigators and research focused on Asians.

NIALA: So practically, how does this play out?

AYURELLA: Yeah, if we take an example of something like climate related health impacts or, how Asian individuals are 23% more likely than non-Asian individuals to currently live in coastal areas with the highest projected increases in traffic delays from climate driven changes in high tide flooding.Then we can see that the real life ramification. So that's actually from a 2021 report by the EPA. And according to that report, Asian individuals were also projected to be disproportionately at risk of living in areas excluded from adaptation measures that could mitigate the impacts of high tide flooding days.

To give that some context, high tide flooding doesn't just measurably disrupt the economic activity in a location. It also can disrupt daily life. It can block streets, close schools, damage vehicles can lead to missed work days, delayed travel times, or damage to infrastructure. And so I think it's important to point that out because when we consider issues that exist, within disaggregated data and the model minority myth and other stereotypes that feed this narrative that Asian communities are doing fine. Despite these disparities, these kinds of disparities in exposure in climate impact don't get the same attention when we're thinking about policy research and, and even a media focus, that we see received by other communities of color.

NIALA: How are Asian Americans getting involved in the climate movement and pushing for change?

AYURELLA: I think the key point here is that Asian Americans, despite being excluded from these spaces within the National Climate Movement, have been founding and steering organizations committed to climate justice. They have been at the forefront of protests and negotiations and leading research that helps inform modern climate science.

So I would like to point to what Andrea Chu, a Taiwanese American who founded Chicago Asian Americans for Environmental Justice, told me for this piece. Andrea said, “we continue to be invisibilized and basically get left behind and never spoken about. My approach to this problem has been not to try and fight for space, but to create the spaces that we need.”

NIALA: Ayurella Horn-Muller covers climate justice for Axios. Thanks Ayurella.

AYURELLA: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: 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 me at (202) 918-4893. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Thanks for listening, stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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