While travelers are feeling more comfortable about resuming holiday travel and celebration, they will continue to face delays, cancellations, and other frustrations, says a Virginia Tech expert.

The reality is that the hospitality industry is still recovering from the impact of COVID, says travel and tourism professor Mahmood Khan.

“The backbone of the travel industry is affected due to the blockage of the supply chain; acute labor shortages; and coming out of the lockdown psychology,” says Khan. “The problems facing the travel industry are evident by last minute flight cancellations, lost baggage, delays, and unruly customer stories.”

Khan says that expecting travel to be as normal as during pre-pandemic will bring more disappointment. Airline prices have gone up considerably, which requires advance planning, particularly for Christmas travel. 

“Even when travelers are mentally prepared to pay a little more for getting out of the isolation, the sticker-shock can be stressful. The Thanksgiving break will be a pre-test of things to come, and Christmas travel may prove to be a nightmare,” says Khan. 

Khan says the holiday rush will likely be more for domestic vs. international travel. 

“Domestic airfares will be much higher than in the last few years. The opportune time has already passed for best deal and travelers should grab whatever deals they can find,” says Khan. “From Thanksgiving onward, the prices will go up almost on a daily basis until the New Year. Redeeming points earned may not be as easy as it seems due to the lack of available options.” 

Travel challenges aside, more people will travel this year than during the past two years. This will cause an increased demand for limited services. The demand for pilots and crew members remain and delays and cancellations should be expected. 

“Avoid peak travel days surrounding Christmas and Thanksgiving to eliminate a lot of stress and mishaps. Limit the amount of luggage, particularly hand carrying bags, to reduce waiting times considerably at airports. Also avoid narrow connecting times,” says Khan. 

Khan warns that getting rental cars could be another problem to consider due to the lack of available cars. Many rental places reduced their inventory by selling cars during the pandemic. Hotels are also still unraveling from serious labor shortage and earlier planning will help.  

“Checking cancellation and refund policies is a must since it is not easy to get refunds if the policies do not permit. Some credit cards have good coverage when flights are cancelled or for the layover situations,” says Khan.

Travel challenges aside, Khan says that safety should be the priority and taking precautions are a must. “Considering all the negative aspects, the best part will be to enjoy the holidays with family and friends in spite of certain inconveniences.” 

About Khan

Mahmood Khan is a professor and director of the Pamplin College of Business Master of Science in Business Administration/Hospitality and Tourism Management program in the Washington, D.C., metro region. Major areas of his research include hospitality franchising, services management, customer relationships, food service and operational management, and consumer preferences in hotels, restaurants and institutions. More here.

Khan's expertise has been featured in USA TodayWashington PostForbes, and many others.