A cursory examination of the Hotel and Airline industries reveals a huge disparity between how the two sectors have fared after a return to travel. Both experienced a crippling lockdown, a sharp reduction in staff and costly requirements for increased sanitation protocols. They both also experienced the same vigorous resurgence of business as pent-up demand hit them hard after almost two years of reduced volume.
So why are hotels flying high, laughing all the way to the bank, while the airline industry can barely keep it together, cancelling thousands of flights, and in the case of Heathrow Airport, banning new flights altogether?
We think there are a few good reasons that explain that discrepancy.
- It’s harder to replace airline personnel. Getting a full contingent of new employees hired and up to speed is just harder to do in the airline industry. It’s easier to train housekeeping workers and front desk personnel than it is to train pilots and flight attendants. Pilots don’t grow on trees, and industry experts have been predicting a pilot shortage for some time. These well-paid professionals may also have decided to retire earlier than normal, thanks to the pandemic.
- The price of gas doesn’t really affect hotels. For airlines however gasoline is a key cost factor. So on top of reduced income for two years they now face the highly inflated cost of something absolutely essential to their operation.
- The weather doesn’t really impact hotels either. While many assume most flights cancelled due to the weather are just excuses covering other issues, the reality is that the weather often actually is the reason. The recent spate of cancellations (August 5-7) had more to do with weather than staffing shortages.
- Airline flight schedules are interconnected. When one flight gets cancelled it can sometimes affect up to a dozen others along the line. Once enough cancellations pile up, a flight that might have been profitable loses viability.
- Hotels have found ways to cut costs post-pandemic, but what can airlines cut? Asking green travelers to forego fresh towels saves a few dollars, as does only changing sheets between guests. Airlines on the other hand are limited in ways to reduce spending. They can’t exactly cut back on maintenance, and union contracts are in place for most salaried positions. Other onboard spending decisions, like the size, number and type of seats, are “baked in the cake” and would cost them dearly to change.
We sympathize with the men and women who are having to deal with such a complicated mess. In both industries. As the end users of their products we hope this shared calamity leaves them stronger and better to compete for travel industry business.