DENVER (CBS4) – Early summer travel at Denver International Airport and other major destinations shows more people are more comfortable getting on a plane compared to this time last year, keeping demand for flights high heading into a holiday weekend. But airlines are struggling to hire enough staff to supply current flights. 

“We’re basically stranded in Houston at this point,” said John Busselmaier on Monday. The Colorado resident spent the past two weeks traveling with his wife and children expecting to return home the day before. “We really just want to sleep in our own beds and eat real food.”

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The family had four flights as part of a trip they had to delay a year because of the pandemic. They said all flights had some sort of change or delay. They never planned to visit Texas but will end up spending at least two nights there waiting for the next available flight home.

Their airline told them there was a weather delay getting into Denver but industry experts say there is a shortage of several key positions at airports and in airplanes. AAA staff explained that when many employees were laid off early in the pandemic, they made career changes not expecting to return to their previous positions. Travelers on Monday locally and across the country were disappointed to see the lack of staff having such a large impact on their travel experience.

“We had our 20th wedding anniversary this year and decided to extend the trip so that we could take our kids to Universal and to Disney World,” Candace Busselmaier told CBS4 on the same video conference call with her husband. 

TSA checkpoint travel numbers through Sunday show an increasing trend in passengers with 2.1 million people in the agency’s database on June 27, compared to 1.8 million on May 27. But both of those figures are still down compared to the same day in 2019 but a major increase compared to 2020 dates. The vaccine has helped more people become ready to travel sooner than the industry was ready to start flying again with so many passengers, even if they are off of their highs before COVID-19. 

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“It is a little frustrating. I mean over the past few days I’ve had some moves to make and it’s been delayed so I’m actually getting into Denver a day and half later than I was expecting to,” said Dwight White on Monday, visiting from Chicago.

“I know with the work that I do and with the amount I like to travel, I’ll probably continue booking flights.”

He understood the hiring challenge airlines are facing but also worried about the impact these kind of delays and canceled flights could have on customers, especially if they must miss a day of their own job. The Busselmaiers had the same concern, trying to get work done remotely from their hotel room. Even after booking flights in February, they had multiple changes to their flights and say they have yet to be offered any compensation for all their inconveniences. They did buy travel insurance for the first time and hope it will help cover some of the unexpected cost from this trip.

AAA Colorado advises travelers to plan their entire trips in advance, do not leave any decisions to the last minute. Even with a plan, have a backup option and consider working with a travel agent. Travel insurance is up 30% to 40% during the pandemic as uncertainly remains a factor for travel the rest of the year. 

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“Expect the worst and pray for the best,” Busselmaier said.

Shawn Chitnis