If you’ve been looking for further justification for your FIY (fly-it-yourself) habit, recent reports on airline travel should give you plenty of backup. For example, National Public Radio reported on Monday that airlines canceled thousands of flights over the Memorial Day weekend and summer schedules are being cut back, despite surging demand for air travel.

The result for ticket buyers is not only potential chaos involving canceled flights, but higher fares and new fees. According to Hayley Berg, lead economist for booking agency Hopper, the average fare for a domestic round-trip ticket is now $394—50 percent higher than last summer and 25 percent higher than 2019, the last summer before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NPR report blames high fuel prices as central to the price increases, but also cites a “labor shortage,” with pilots at the tip of that spear (good news for up-and-coming airline captains). Kathleen Bangs, a spokesperson for flight-tracking specialist FlightAware, told NPR that airlines this year have canceled about 3 percent of all flights. “Anything over about 1 percent before Covid we thought was a pretty high number,” she said. “And it is a good thing that the airlines have scaled back some because there is such a surge in demand.”

While all GA pilots understand that unpredictable summer storms can wreak havoc on their flight plans, clearly, the airlines are far from immune to the domino effect of bad weather (among other things) on their dispatch reliability. Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group told NPR, “There’s absolutely no wiggle room, no flex room in the industry if and when something goes wrong. And it’s summertime. Something goes wrong on a regular basis.”

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