Jun 30, 2022 - News

Don't expect easy air travel from DTW this summer

Illustration of a travel postcard with an airplane appearing in the text of a scream.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Detroit Metro Airport is having a chaotic summer — and it's likely to get worse.

Driving the news: Delta, which has a major hub at DTW, delayed 19% of flights going through DTW on Monday and 14% on Tuesday, according to flightaware.com.

  • With the busy holiday weekend approaching, the airline is offering free flight changes because it expects extra "operational challenges," CNBC reports.
  • And Delta pilot union members are picketing outside airports today, including DTW, to try and speed up contract negotiations, Axios Atlanta's Emma Hurt reports.

The big picture: U.S. airlines received billions of dollars in government aid to make sure they were ready for passengers to return to the skies after the pandemic, but demand snapped back too quickly, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

  • Now, a lack of staff on airplanes and in airports is crunching consumers.
  • "With travel back to pre-pandemic levels, (airlines) are at … almost 100% of the flight patterns they were at before, but they have half the staff," Candius Stearns, a travel agent who runs Stay Balanced Travel in Troy, tells Axios.

Between the lines: Delta saw a wave of early retirements in 2020 that has required a big round of training for new pilots, CEO Edward Herman Bastian said on a June 1 investor call.

  • "And that training cycle has probably got another probably good eight, 12 months to go until it really stabilizes," Bastian said.

Zoom in: Stearns' workday reflects new realities in air travel. She says she is spending nearly double the time on customers' trips in some cases, handling logistical difficulties, including long hours on the phone.

Pro tips: Book flights early, or drive if the destination is up to five hours away, Stearns advises.

  • Read the rules on your flight ticket closely and make sure to arrive at DTW early.
  • If you don't usually buy travel insurance, this summer is the time to do it.
  • Don't take frustrations out on airline employees — they can't fix the global travel economy themselves.
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