Jul 1, 2022 - News

Don't expect easy summer travel out of Richmond

Illustration of a board of cancelled departures, with one reading "let's just drive."
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

If you're planning to fly for the Fourth of July — or any upcoming summer trip — be warned: Richmond International Airport is experiencing the same travel headaches plaguing the rest of the country.

What's happening: There were 218 flights canceled in or out of RIC in June, Troy Bell, director of communications for the Richmond airport, tells Axios.

  • That’s a cancellation rate of 5.1% — a big jump from June 2021, when less than 1% of flights out of the airport were canceled, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
  • And the airport is also seeing more delays than usual, with more than 40 delayed flights since Wednesday, according to the most recent data available.

The big picture: Travel demand is surging post-pandemic just as airlines and TSA are facing staffing shortages, Axios' Nathan Bomey reports.

  • Most U.S. airlines have cut their schedules in an attempt to catch up, but some of the changes don't kick in until Friday, so travelers aren't feeling the relief yet, Axios' Joann Muller reports.
  • And it's not just this summer — industry officials told Axios airline staff shortages could extend well into 2023.

By the numbers: RIC expects more than 1 million summer travelers to pass through this year.

  • The airport is 90% back to its pre-pandemic numbers, Bell says.

Zoom in: Cancellations at major hubs like Atlanta and Charlotte that connect with Richmond are exacerbating the misery here.

  • "If you're going to a major hub that is seeing cancellations, then all of a sudden your options get very slim," Bell says. "Flights are very full, so it's not like the next flight in line is going to have your name on it."
  • That translates to multi-hour and, sometimes, multi-day delays.

Yes, but: Most trips are proceeding without incident, Bell says.

  • Still, he acknowledges that's a small comfort for people who do end up running into problems.

His advice: If you're taking a short trip to, say, a wedding where it's critical you be there on time, consider going a day early if you can.

  • "There's more demand than supply, and we may be in that position for a while," Bell says.

Meanwhile, AAA expects a record number of people to drive this holiday weekend — despite gas prices still hovering around $5 a gallon.

  • AAA says a record 42 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more by car this weekend.
  • Widespread flight delays and cancellations are a likely factor for the increased car travel, AAA told Axios' Muller.
  • The share of people traveling by air will be the lowest since 2011.

But drivers are expected to deal with traffic headaches of their own — especially for folks traveling Friday.

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