Have a business trip in the next couple of months? Prepare for impact: It’s been an extremely busy summer for travel, one characterized by packed flights, staffing shortages, and soaring prices.

The latest figures from the Transportation Security Administration show daily passenger screening levels well ahead of where they were last year, with numerous days in 2023 having surpassed their 2019 equivalents.

Here’s what you can expect from the busy travel season ahead and what you can do to cope.

Disruptions – the summer sequel

Remember that sinking feeling you had last year after discovering your can’t-miss flight was canceled? Well, you may have a repeat experience this season. As NPR reports, staffing shortages, antiquated technology, air traffic control problems, scheduling issues, and labor disputes – not to mention climate change-related events like wildfire smoke – continue to plague the aviation industry and will likely contribute to flight disruptions this season.

Survival tip: If possible, fly on the first flight out. According to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, flights with scheduled departures between 6 and 7 a.m. have the best on-schedule arrival times – just 8.6 minutes late, on average. Delay times only get worse as the day goes on. Plus, if your flight does get canceled, you’ll have a better chance of hopping on another flight that same day than passengers leaving in the afternoon or evening.

We recommend booking your business travel flight through your travel management company (TMC) instead of directly with the airline to keep your options open and taking advantage of its disruption management solution for fast rebooking assistance. No need to wait in long customer service lines!

Airport labor woes

The good news is, after going on a hiring spree, airlines are now better equipped to handle the surge in travel this season. The industry now employs more than 486,000 workers in the US, which is nearly 10% more than before the pandemic.

The bad news? The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) warns a significant shortage of air traffic controllers (ATCs) will affect travel this summer, particularly at New York City’s three major airports. Back in March, the FAA released a memo that warned of the region’s controller capacity being at just 54% of its target and stated this could amount to a 45% spike in delays into and out of Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK airports this summer.

We saw this take effect the weekend heading into Fourth of July, when many flights in the New York City area were canceled or delayed.

We also anticipate flight disruptions throughout Europe this season due to strike strife, with airport workers in countries like England, France, Scotland, Spain, and Italy planning walkouts.

Survival tip: Since many of the strikes in Europe are planned, check before you book a trip to see if you could be affected. When planning your journey, consider the worst-case scenario and what you would do if left stranded. Download a travel app to stay on top of flight and airport advisories and have the preferred communication channel (e.g., chat, WhatsApp, Slack, etc.) to reach your TMC ready to fire on your phone in case you need rebooking help and a last-minute hotel reservation.

Staffing shortages at hotels

According to a recent American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) survey, hotels have struggled to fill vacancies despite offering record-high hourly wages, greater flexibility, and benefits. The number of US hotels experiencing staffing shortages has increased from 79% in January 2023 to 82% in June 2023, according to AHLA.

Even if hotels in Europe aren’t dealing with the same level of staffing issues they had last year, you can expect their work crews to be overwhelmed due to the massive crowds showing up. According to Allianz, the number of Americans traveling to Europe this summer is expected to climb by 55% over last year’s figures – which were already 600% higher than in 2021.

Survival tactic: When available, use mobile check-in through the hotel app instead of waiting in line at the reception desk. This move, according to The Points Guy, may also help you to score an early check-in. Is there a long wait at the hotel restaurant due to slow service? Reserve a seat at the best restaurant in town using the Resy app. And don’t rely on a door attendant to flag down a cab when you can hail yourself a ride with a vetted driver through our Amex GBT Mobile app.

Prices that will make your eyes water

With rising demand, higher travel prices are to be expected. But some numbers we’ve seen might make you fall off your chair.

According to the flight tracking site Hopper, airfare to Europe is at a five-year high. Roundtrip tickets to the continent are averaging more than $1,100, approximately $300 higher than in 2022. As one news report indicates, business class tickets from California to Iceland were going for as high as $11,000.

Meanwhile, Hopper indicated that US hotel prices were 54% higher in January 2023 than in the same month in 2022.

According to our newly released Ground Monitor 2023 report, the rate rises we’ve seen with car rental prices since 2019 will continue throughout 2023 before beginning to level off in 2024. Two main factors driving up costs: the surge in demand and bottlenecks in the automotive supply chain.

Survival tip: Taking advantage of a TMC’s preferred rates can substantially reduce travel costs – sometimes up to 25% to 50%, depending on the rates you book. A TMC’s air and hotel re-shopping solutions that automatically search for price drops and rebook less expensive like-for-life tickets and rooms as they become available also can translate into significant savings. Finally, if your company policy allows it, tack on a few personal days to a work trip to save a considerable sum on airfare and preserve your leisure travel budget.

If you’d like to learn more about how American Express Global Business Travel is combatting issues posed by the busy travel season, reach out to our team.