To fly or not to fly?

Rachel McDonald, Editor-in-Chief

With COVID nearly behind us, traveling by plane has been more accessible. Although flying sometimes seems the more time sensible option, airlines still are not reliable.

Southwest Airlines suffered a severe loss over the holidays, cancelling more than 16,700 flights between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Many passengers select Southwest for their lower airfare rates, which is the same reason my family chose it to fly to Colorado for a skiing vacation over Winter Break. We spent months planning our skiing vacation with reserving lift tickets for Breckenridge, Keystone, and Vail Resorts. We also reserved a nonrefundable Airbnb in Colorado, along with a rental car. After months of planning and hours of packing, we finally arrived at the Indianapolis International Airport for our departure at 3:30 p.m.

Little did we know that when we entered those doors with all of our luggage, we would end up walking out of them six and a half hours later. After about an hour of waiting in the airport after going through TSA inspections and checking our luggage, we noticed many surrounding Southwest flights were being canceled. It seemed about every five minutes another flight was canceled. Even though our flight had not been canceled, it was delayed three times to where we would be departing three hours later than expected.

After about two hours, our flight to Denver and another flight to Sarasota were the only Southwest flights remaining. My dad began to get nervous and began looking to see if our Epic Pass lift tickets could be used at another Vail-owned resort in the event we could not go to Colorado. At about 6 p.m. we heard the announcement that the Sarasota and Denver flights had been canceled. My heart sank with disappointment. We rushed into line to see if we could find another flight. There was a young family near us going to go Disney World, and their children were in tears. By the time all of us were helped at the customer service desk, all the other airline flights to Florida and Colorado had been taken. The soonest available flight would be when after school resumed.

After getting our refund, we still had to find our luggage. It was scattered everywhere and took us more than an hour to find our skis. We were exhausted, disappointed, and frustrated. When we got home, we were able to find another resort in New York that our Epic Pass lift tickets would work with, so the next morning we left at 4 a.m. to drive nearly 13 hours to Hunter Mountain, New York.

Southwest Airlines claimed the cancelations were due to a technology crisis, but we later discovered a majority were subject to employee strike walkouts. With airlines already suffering from low staffing, this only created more of an issue.

When traveling, it is important to consider if driving is a more reliable and affordable option. When flying, strict TSA rules and long wait times can be quite the obstacle. Airfare rates have also sky rocketed making flying rather expensive. According to the Bureau of Transportation, the average cost of domestic flight increased nearly 21 percent in 2022. Driving offers a more affordable option.

Flying is a great option if the destination is far away, but driving is better if it will save money and be more reliable.