Holiday travel plans could be in jeopardy, as vaccine mandates could create more pilot shortages

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — If you haven’t made plans to travel for the holidays, a representative for the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport says you may want to do that now.

Multiple airlines have started issuing vaccine mandates since President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Sept. 9 requiring federal contractors to mandate vaccinations and ensure workers are fully vaccinated by Dec. 8.

American, Southwest, and United Airlines are just a few of the many carriers who have started mandating the vaccine to their employees.

Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport’s Director of Marketing and Airport Service Development, Brad Boettcher, says if there aren’t enough vaccinated pilots, carriers could struggle to fly their current holiday schedule.

“I think this is a trend that we’re in,” said Boettcher. “We saw a shortage of pilots before the pandemic. And then, when the pandemic hit and airlines were buying employees out, a lot of pilots retired from that. Now, we find ourselves back in a pilot shortage as demand is increasing.”

Boettcher says that people shouldn’t wait to make plans for the holidays.

“Definitely buy those tickets. Don’t wait. Flights are filling up. There aren’t as many seats out there as historically there might’ve been. It’s very important, if people wanna travel, to go ahead and make those reservations now,” said Boettcher.

The demand for travel is already high as many carriers have started to fill their schedule. That demand could exceed the capacity airlines may have, if there aren’t enough pilots.

To be better prepared for possible disruptions, Boettcher suggests a few tips:

  • Book directly with your airline. This gives you a direct line to customer service, rather than going back and forth between the airline and any online booking service such as Expedia or Google Flights, should there be any issues.
  • Update your contact information.
  • Download the airline’s app with the push notification alerts enabled to ensure you are being notified of what’s going on.

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