The COVID-19 pandemic has ground the aviation industry to a halt over the last year and a half.

Airline emissions were unprecedentedly low throughout this period and are only just starting to rise again as international travel resumes.

But the nature of travel is changing, and this time it’s as a result of climate change. From increased turbulence to frequent flyer taxes, what is in the store for airline passengers as the climate crisis gets worse?

Turbulence could get worse on flights

‘Head-slamming’ turbulence is steadily increasing on flights, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the US.

Over 65 per cent of severe injuries logged by US accident investigators from 2017 to 2020 on planes resulted from turbulence, triggered by atmospheric conditions that could be worsening due to climate change.

“Turbulence is the most common airline accident type today and it’s high time we reduce turbulence-related injuries,” says NTSB acting Chairman Bruce Landsberg.

Because they have to be on their feet for longer than passengers, flight attendants are the most vulnerable – in fact, they are 24 times more likely to be seriously injured.

They’ve been “slammed off ceilings, walls and floors, suffering broken vertebrae and other fractured bones as well as head injuries”, according to NTSB accident reports.

The problem has been exacerbated by insufficient weather reporting and outdated guidance to airlines.

You can also experience ‘clear air turbulence’, according to Dr. Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading.

In 2019 Williams told CBC, “Flying through a cloud, when at least you can see it, you know it’s there and you’re going to expect some turbulence in the next few minutes.

“But clear air turbulence is generated by instabilities in the jet stream because of very rapidly moving air currents at 35,000 feet. The wind speed increases with altitude.”

If the wind is too strong, says Dr. Williams, then “the atmosphere just can’t contain the stresses and strains. It becomes unstable and breaks down.”

“Because of our CO2 emissions, it’s modifying the jet stream and just increasing those instabilities,” he concludes.

More flights could be delayed due to extreme weather

​​Imagine boarding a flight only to be told that the airline needs a dozen passengers to get off because it’s too hot outside for the plane to take off fully loaded.

This could become a common experience for passengers at the world’s 19 major airports as extreme heatwaves get worse, according to a study by Columbia University in the US.

“As air temperatures rise at constant pressure, air density declines, resulting in less lift generation by an aircraft wing at a given airspeed and potentially imposing a weight restriction on departing aircraft,” the study details.

And it’s not just the heat that is starting to cause delays – storms and extreme weather are also a problem. Just this month, one airline passenger wrote about her experience of violent storms in Texas.

“Uncharacteristic tornadoes and severe thunderstorms had wracked the

CANBERRA, Australia — Qantas Group posted a $1.7 billion (AU$2.35 billion) pandemic-related annual loss on Thursday and forecast Australia will reopen to international travel in December.

The Sydney-based airline company said it expected flights to countries with high vaccination rates including the United States, Britain, Japan and Singapore would resume in mid-December.

Flights to countries with lower vaccination rates including Indonesia, the Philippines and South Africa would restart from April next year at the earliest, Qantas said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“One of the biggest unknowns is the quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travelers entering Australia,” the statement said.

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If Australia keeps its requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine, travel demand would be “very low.”

“A shorter period with additional testing and the option to isolate at home will see a lot more people travel,” the statement said.

Australia has had some of the world’s toughest pandemic border restrictions since March 2020. Most Australians must ask the government for an exemption from a travel ban to leave the country and foreigners are in most circumstances refused permission to enter.

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The Qantas prediction for a resumption in international travel was based on an agreement reached by Australian government leaders in July that the country will begin to reopen when 80% of the population aged 16 and older is fully vaccinated.

Qantas expects Australia will have reached that target by December.

According to the latest government figures released on Thursday, 32% of the target population was fully vaccinated.

Qantas said it had lost AU$16 billion in revenue because of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The lost revenue would likely exceed AU$20 billion by the end of 2021.

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Australia’s largest airline has also suffered financial losses because of domestic travel restrictions.

More than half the Australian population and the two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are currently locked down due to a delta variant outbreak that began in mid-June.

The company had recorded a $554 million (AU$771 million) pre-tax profit in the first half of that fiscal year before the pandemic struck.

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Australian airline Qantas plans to restart flights to several destinations around the world before the end of 2021.

Having grounded most of its international fleet since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, Qantas is now eyeing its return to the skies.

The airline initially plans to begin flying to what it is calling “Covid-safe destinations”. This means places that have high vaccination rates and includes North America, the UK, Singapore and Japan.

Qantas is also banking on the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand restarting sooner rather than later, with flights for these destinations on sale from mid-December 2021.

All of the restart plans hinge on the Australian government’s policy on opening international borders, said Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce.

“It’s obviously up to the government exactly how and when our international borders reopen, but with Australia on track to meet the 80 per cent trigger agreed by National Cabinet by the end of the year, we need to plan ahead for what is a complex restart process.”

This plan prioritises resuming flights to destinations in the UK, North America and to parts of Asia, which Qantas says are likely to be “classed as low-risk countries for vaccinated travellers to visit and return from under reduced quarantine requirements”.

The plan also depends on whether or not the Australian government will relax quarantine rules in Australia, and on the entry policies of other countries.

“Levels of travel demand – and therefore, capacity levels – will hinge largely on government decisions on alternative requirements to mandatory hotel isolation for fully vaccinated travellers,” said a statement from the airline.

Delayed restarts for Bali, Manila, Bangkok and Johannesburg

Other destinations that have low vaccination rates and high levels of Covid-19 cases will not have Qantas or Jetstar routes restarted before April 2022.

This applies to Indonesia, where Bali, which is a popular holiday destination from Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and South Africa. Flights to Hong Kong are on the schedule to restart in February.

Despite the optimism for international flights resuming, Joyce warned that he expected New South Wales and Victoria to remain shut off from the rest of Australia for a longer period of time.

“The prospect of flying overseas might feel a long way off, especially with New South Wales and Victoria in lockdown, but the current pace of the vaccine roll-out means we should have a lot more freedom in a few months’ time.

An early return for the world’s largest passenger jet

Despite “diabolical conditions” during the pandemic, Qantas is bringing some of its A380 superjumbos back to service earlier than expected.

Five of the world’s largest passenger jets, which have been in storage since 2020, will return to Australia to satisfy passenger

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“At the moment this is our plan, we know it could change,” he said.

“It could have to be pushed out further if we don’t get to those vaccination levels, or if there’s quarantine requirements. But this is our best estimate of what could happen by the end of the year.”

Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said on Thursday that while he believed travel between Australia and New Zealand could resume by November, the unrestricted “travel bubble” that operated from April to July would not return.

“It’s going to be very difficult for both countries to get the case numbers down to where both countries are going to be accepting that… you can just operate as a free and open border,” he told this masthead.

Instead, Mr Foran said pre-departure tests and proof of vaccination would likely be required, and even then travel may not be possible to more conservative states.

Mr Joyce said Qantas had discussed its plans with the federal government, which had agreed its “broad assumptions are reasonable”.

The Qantas boss acknowledged that cautious state governments could override the road map agreed to by the national cabinet to reopen Australia’s borders after the 80 per cent vaccination target was achieved, but said it would be a “terrible shame” if people in NSW could visit London at Christmas but could not travel to Perth.

But Qantas is planning for that reality, Mr Joyce said, by Darwin as a transit point for its non-stop flights to London as an alternative to Perth.

Under its plan to restart international travel, Qantas said flights to Hong Kong would resume in February, but it would not start flying to destinations that currently have low rates of vaccination and high rates of COVID-19 transmission until April. That included Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City and Johannesburg.

Qantas has had to push back its plans to restart international flying several times over the past year. In February, it said it intended to resume flying to “most” international destinations in late October, and by May it had revised that to a “material” amount of international flying from late December.

Qantas said it expected to be flying at 38 per cent of pre-COVID domestic capacity in the September quarter, 52 per cent in the December quarter before rising to around 110 per cent in the first half of next calendar year.

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From 11.59pm on Tuesday, quarantine-free travel with South Australia will be paused for seven days, but Kiwis in the Covid-hit state will still be able to get home.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement on Tuesday night, shortly before the state entered into a strict snap lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of a new Covid-19 community outbreak.

Special green flights would operate for New Zealanders in the state. Passengers travelling on these “managed return” flights would be required to present a negative pre-departure test taken within 72 hours of leaving.

A completed health declaration and Nau Mai Rā travel declaration would also be required.

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* Covid-19: Close contacts top 15,000 as super-spreaders spark new stadium cases in Australia
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“The pause means people cannot travel to New Zealand from South Australia after 6pm tonight for the duration of the pause unless they are normally resident here and wish to return,” Hipkins explained.

He encouraged those who fit into this category to consider this option available for the next week.

Quarantine-free travel had already been paused with NSW and Victoria. A decision on South Australia was pending.

Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Quarantine-free travel had already been paused with NSW and Victoria. A decision on South Australia was pending.

“The pause will run for seven days, to 27 July, to coincide with the timing of the lockdown and will be reviewed on that day.”

Hipkins said this decision was made based on public health advice from New Zealand officials, and followed the state’s decision to enter the lockdown.

He acknowledged the disruption this caused, but said the uncertainty of the situation and the country’s “consistently cautious approach” to prevent the virus entering the country made them confident it was the right decision.

At this stage, there was no change to quarantine-free travel for the state of Queensland.

Lockdown announced

From 6pm Australian time (8pm NZT), South Australia moved into a seven-day lockdown.

“We hate putting these restrictions in place but we believe we have one chance to get this right,” Premier Steven Marshall​ said on Tuesday.

“We have no alternative but to impose some fairly heavy and immediate restrictions to come in.”

The restrictions limited movement in the community, with people only allowed to leave home to care for someone, for essential work, to exercise with someone from the same household, to buy essential items, or to get a Covid-19 test or vaccination.

New Zealand officials undertook a risk assessment on Tuesday afternoon after the state’s latest Covid-19 cluster grew. The outbreak was confirmed to be the highly infectious Delta variant.

Five new Covid-19 cases had been linked to an elderly man who travelled from Argentina via New South Wales, where

Canadians and Americans looking to fly across the border could have one more airline to choose from this fall, if coronavirus-related travel restrictions between the two countries are gone by then, as planned.

Canadian budget carrier Flair Airlines said Thursday that on Oct. 31 it will begin flying to six U.S. leisure destinations, including Las Vegas; Fort Lauderdale and Orlando-Sanford in Florida; Phoenix-Mesa in Arizona; Hollywood-Burbank and Palm Springs in California.

Flair executives suggest that their tiny airline can undercut big Canadian and American carriers on price. Swoop, a low-cost carrier owned by Canada’s WestJet, is trying that approach too.

“You don’t have to rack up debt or save for months to enjoy travel this winter,” Stephen Jones, president and CEO of Flair Airlines said in a statement.

One-way fares will start between 79 to 109 Canadian dollars ($63 to $87).

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Flair officials said they will fly to the U.S. from eight Canadian cities, including Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Calgary, Ottowa, Kitchener-Waterloo and Abbotsford.

The airline is led by a former executive of Hungary’s Wizz Air. It flew charters before converting to a mix of low fares and lots of fees, similar to U.S. carriers Spirit and Allegiant. Flair tried flying to the U.S. once before but ended that service in 2019.

Flair has five Boeing 737 Max jets and three older 737s, with eight more Max planes on order.

“Aer Lingus tells me they issued the refund and I have to call Orbitz. I got called back from Orbitz four hours after I called,” said Ms. Woolard a retired nurse from Winston-Salem, N.C. “I had to wait another hour to speak to someone. Orbitz said they cannot access my records and that I may not get the refund until the end of 2021,” more than 18 months after the flight was canceled. “I know the airlines are struggling, but you just feel so helpless,” she said.

The holdup in the refund, according to Nisreene Atassi, a company spokeswoman, stemmed from a glitch in the Orbitz computer system which rejected the refund because it had been authorized after the one-year expiration period. (After an inquiry by The Times, Ms. Woolard has now received her refund.)

To improve its customer service, Expedia has hired an additional 500 representatives for its companies to add to its 6,000 total across 30 countries, Mr. Singh said, but it takes three months to train them before they can do the job. Likewise, American Airlines said that it is hiring “hundreds” of customer service agents to deal with the increased call volume.

Expedia expects customers to see improvements soon. Its companies can now handle 80 percent of flight cancellation requests through its websites, up from 10 percent at the start of the pandemic. And by August, it expects to be able to answer 80 percent of its customer service calls within 20 seconds or less, Ms. Atassi said.

With more customer service representatives for the airlines and online travel agencies, wait times should begin to ease. For those who still can’t get satisfaction from either, Bill McGee, Consumer Reports’ aviation adviser, recommends that passengers contest the charges with their credit card issuer. “According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, you’re entitled to a refund if you don’t get goods and services,” Mr. McGee said. “Quite a few readers have gotten satisfaction this way.”

Both Mastercard and Visa require transaction disputes to be filed within 120 days of the original payment. But the price cannot be refunded if the original ticket was a nonrefundable fare, a Visa spokesperson said.

Even with the more-generous expiration dates, vouchers will still eventually expire and the customer will forfeit the amount if the voucher is not used. If specific circumstances prevent a customer from traveling by next spring, American Airlines will work with customers on an individualized basis, said Andrea Koos, a senior manager of corporate communications at American Airlines.

As the number of people who get vaccinated increases and restrictions ease, you may be thinking about planning an upcoming vacation. Since so many other people are also ready to get back to traveling, travel costs might be higher than you expect them to be.

Fortunately, it’s still possible to plan a trip while staying on a budget. Read on to learn more about some tools that can help you discover cheaper flights.

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Get flight predictions with Hopper

Hopper is a great flight tool that will help you get the best price for your next flight.

When searching, the app shows a calendar view, with dates in green, yellow, orange, or red. Green dates signify a great flight deal, while red dates have high prices. Yellow and orange dates are somewhere in between. This color-coded system can help you narrow down your trip dates so you stay within your vacation budget.

Additionally, Hopper predicts future flight prices and will tell you if now is the time to book or if you might be able to get a better deal by waiting a bit. If you don’t want to buy right away, you can set up notification alerts. Hopper will also track the price over time and tell you when prices rise or go down.

With Skyscanner, you can let the prices choose your next destination

If you’re an adventurous traveler who is open to exploring new places, you’re going to like the next tool on our list. Skyscanner is a search tool that helps you compare flight prices. If you already know where you want to go, just plug in your destination.

One thing that makes Skyscanner stand out is the ability to search “Everywhere” for your destination. Just enter a departure point and type “Everywhere” in the “To” box. Skyscanner will show you the prices throughout cities in the United States and flight prices for travel to other countries. If you want to travel and book the best deal possible, this may be the tool for you.

Quickly search for flights and find out essential details with Google Flights

If you haven’t been using Google Flights to look at airline prices, you may want to start doing so. This is another airline search tool, and it’s feature-packed and easy to use. Google Flights is incredibly fast, allowing you to find flights in seconds. You can compare options by price to save money on your next flight.

This tool will also

Southwest Airlines has canceled more than 200 weekend flights and delayed hundreds of others, the continuation of a rough month for the nation’s largest domestic carrier and its passengers.

Southwest canceled 156 Friday flights – far more than any U.S. carrier – and has already canceled 67 Saturday flights, according to flight tracker FlightAware

Tardy flights are a big issue, too: Southwest has 541 delayed Friday flights, or 15% of its flights, according to FlightAware.

The issues come a week after Southwest canceled or delayed hundreds of flights due to two separate technology issues and a week after American Airlines struggled with operational woes during the busy Father’s Day travel weekend and said it would proactively cancel nearly 1,000 July flights to give it more breathing room when weather and other issues crop up.  

Why are Southwest flights canceled today
 

Southwest spokesman Dan Landson said the airline canceled flights ahead of summer storms. 

“To proactively manage our operation, we implemented a scheduled reduction ahead of expected storms and probable air traffic control initiatives,” he said in a statement.

He did not specify any storms, but the airline’s representatives on Twitter have been telling frustrated passengers the issues include residual effects of Thursday storms in Chicago and Denver, for example.

Landon said travelers are being rebooked on other flights. But some travelers are finding the next flight isn’t always the same day given the busy summer travel season.

And plenty of travelers are finding it hard to reach the airline, a universal problem for passengers this summer.

Can I get a refund if an airline cancels my flight?

Passengers whose flights are canceled or significantly delayed are eligible for a refund per U.S. Department of Transportation rules, even if the airline has already rebooked them.    

The problem with opting for a refund during peak travel times if your trip is a must and you’re on a budget: Finding a last-minute flight on another airline won’t be easy or cheap. 

Flying American Airlines in July? Check your reservation for possible flight changes.

The airline slashed nearly 1,000 flights from its July schedule over the weekend to give it more breathing room as the travel surge and other factors strain its operation.

“We never want to disappoint, and feel these schedule adjustments will help ensure we can take good care of our customers and team members and minimize surprises at the airport,” American spokeswoman Andrea Koos said in a statement.

Most of the proactive cancellations are for the first half of the month and amount to 1% of the flights that were planned, the airline said. Travelers were automatically rebooked on other flights, but that often means different departure times, an unplanned connection or inconvenient routing and other hassles. Those with upcoming travel plans should check the status of their flight, so there are no surprises in July.

Passengers whose departure times were changed by more than four hours are eligible for a refund instead of a travel credit. 

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American disrupted passengers’ travel plans in droves during the busy Father’s Day weekend and into Monday.

On Sunday, the airline canceled 188 flights, or 6% of its scheduled flights, and more than half of all cancellations on flights to, from or within the USA, according to flight tracker FlightAware. Southwest Airlines, which struggled with heavy delays and flight cancellations last week, had the second most cancellations among U.S. carriers – 38, or 1%, of its flights scratched.

American delayed 755, or one in four, flights Sunday, according to FlightAware. 

In total, the airline canceled 500 flights over the weekend, Koos said. She blamed the troubles on a variety of factors, including bad weather Sunday in Miami and Chicago, two of its hubs, and a labor shortage among some of its vendors.

The cancellations continued Monday – 136 as of midday – before bad weather at its megahub in Dallas. Southwest, which also has a large operation in Dallas, canceled 200 Monday flights.

Stranded American passenger: Two canceled flights and toiletries from Walmart

Jay Wiggs flew American from Dallas to San Diego for vacation a week ago and had no issues on the flight out.

Getting home took more than 24 hours and extra expenses. 

The property manager and his wife were due to leave San Diego on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. As soon as they got to the airport, the American app on his phone kept buzzing about flight delays. At 8 p.m., he turned to his wife and said, “I guarantee they’re going to cancel this flight. Sure enough, it wasn’t five minutes later. They canceled the flight.”

They were rebooked on an 8 a.m. flight to Dallas the next day. Wiggs said he asked where they were supposed to sleep that night and was told there were no