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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Airlines are scrambling to catch up as travelers return to the skies.

Why it matters: Passengers are finding fuller planes, busier airports — and, in some cases, surprise changes to their itineraries — as airlines try to add flights and rework their schedules.

The big picture: Cranking up a complex flight network is like putting a puzzle back together after it suddenly fell on the floor. It can be messy, and it takes time.

What's happening: Delta Air Lines, for example, is notifying customers of changes to existing flights — sometimes adding layovers or even modifying dates of travel.

  • Apologetic emails offer to rebook or cancel trips for a credit if the new itineraries are unsatisfactory, but wading through that process can take hours.

How it works: Putting grounded aircraft back into service can require many hours of maintenance. And laid-off flight crews must undergo retraining and recertification before they can fly again.

Increased vaccinations are helping to unleash pent-up demand after a year of staying home.

  • Many Americans have banked a whole lot of frequent flier miles over the past year, notes Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of The Points Guy, a consumer travel website.
  • Many also have vouchers from cancelled 2020 trips that are going to expire soon, Kelly said.

What to watch: Fares are up from last year's deep discounts, but are still significantly cheaper than they were before the pandemic, according to Airlines for America, a trade organization.

  • Business travel remains practically non-existent, but some leisure passengers are splurging — or using banked miles — to upgrade to first class.
  • Airlines have gotten more flexible with change fees and refunds for canceled flights since the beginning of the pandemic. But, Kelly warns, "It's like Whack-A-Mole. One fee goes away but another fee comes along."
  • Travel to more of Europe could open up soon, after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signaled last weekend that vaccinated Americans will be allowed to travel to the continent this summer.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Apr 27, 2021 - Economy & Business

Europe to set a global vaccine passport standard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Europe seems poised to set the global standard for vaccine passports, now that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has signaled that vaccinated Americans will be allowed to travel to the continent this summer.

Why it matters: Opening up travel to vaccinated Americans will bring new urgency to creating some kind of trusted means for people to prove they've been vaccinated.

Apr 28, 2021 - Podcasts

Summer travel is back

On Sunday, almost 1.6 million American air passengers passed through security checkpoints — compared to just about 130,000 the same day last year.

Travelers are rushing to buy plane tickets, and airlines are scrambling to add flights and rework schedules.

  • Plus, some new guidance around masking.
  • And, the Biden administration’s plan to go after tax evaders.
Updated 3 hours ago - World

Death toll mounts as fighting between Israel and Hamas intensifies

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 109 Palestinians and seven people in Israel have been killed since recent fighting between Israel's military and Hamas began Monday.

The big picture: Israel began massing troops on its border with Gaza on Thursday, launching attacks from the air and ground as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel.

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