The summer travel season can’t get much weirder. Along with the classic headaches like long security lines, weather delays, and gas prices, travelers have to fight for rental cars and navigate constant changes in airline schedules and rising prices.
The headaches and chaos are not stopping people from traveling though. After a year and a half of no travel, over 2 million people worked their way through airport security last Sunday—more than any day since the pandemic started.
The travel news this week is all about how the variants are affecting summer travel. Here’s what you need to know.
Rising cases don’t halt reopening
While the number of positive cases of coronavirus has been rising, the ratio of hospitalizations remains low. Florida now leads the US in new coronavirus cases, the majority of which are occurring among the unvaccinated.
Some among the fully vaccinated are also testing positive, but the so-called breakthrough infections thanks to the highly contagious Delta variant, are not resulting in serious illness. In fact, most breakthrough cases are identified through routine testing for work or travel, so individuals aren’t even aware they contracted COVID.
Good news: the vaccines are effective against the variants currently circulating in the US, including the Delta variant.
COVID travel chaos continues
As the Delta variant takes hold as the dominant strain, accounting for as high as 58% of all US infections and spreading across 100 countries, COVID continues to be a travel stumbling block. In addition to rising infection rates, the following travel chaos was reported this week:
- The US State Department reports a massive backlog in passport renewals due to staffing shortages.
- The airlines have started overselling flights again as demand for travel spikes.
- The CDC raised the UK travel advisory to the highest level, suggesting even fully vaccinated travelers avoid the region.
- The list of athletes who have had to drop out of the Olympic games in Tokyo due to COVID health and safety protocols grows longer.
Bad news: summer travel has become more chaotic.
Your rights when a flight is oversold
Airlines know that typically some percentage of customers will miss a flight. To maximize profits, they sell more seats on a given flight than they have available. Very occasionally every passenger shows up at the gate and the airline may need to bump some passengers. When this happens, they will solicit volunteers and sometimes this works in your favor. Earlier in July, one Delta traveler was paid $4,500 (10 times what they paid for the flight) to take a later flight.
If you’re curious, here is the full list of rules and rights under federal law in an oversell situation.
Here’s how to make the most of volunteering to be bumped:
- Politely request that your compensation be the same as the final volunteer’s (you don’t want to accept an offer of $300 when the final person gets $1,000).
- Don’t be afraid to ask for other perks like hotel vouchers, access to the airline lounge, or even a better class of seat on the later flight.
Other interesting news
For the data nerds – the airline with the highest rate of involuntary bumps (according to airline data) in the first quarter of 2021 was Frontier.
Exclusive travel hacks – 33 valuable tips from frequent jet setters.
Flight-shaming to flight free travel – here is the latest in the evolution of sustainable travel trends.