Baja Beat: travel to Mexico soars, planes not so much

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JARRETT PFOST of San Diego poses with this pretty bull dorado pulled off a patch of sargasso weeds floating between Cerralvo Island and Tecolote near La Paz. Photo via Jonathan Roldan
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Mexico has become the go-to place for Americans as things open back up. It’s an easy getaway. It’s economical. It’s easy to get back home. More Americans are choosing Mexico over the rest of the Covid-recovering world.
Travel to Mexico is booming in all the usual places: Cancun, Puerta Vallarta, Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas.

It might not be back to where it was pre-2020, but it’s surely trending that way. There are reports that flight travel, in general, is just about where it used to be.
Just one problem.

The airlines weren’t quite ready for it to boom back this much or this fast.
Therefore, just as summer travel is hitting its stride, travelers are finding there’s some disconcerting hurdles to straddle.

Frankly, flights are getting delayed, changed and canceled with regularity. Most recently American Airlines, Southwest and others have been cancelling over 100 flights per day. This does not begin to count the flights that are changed, delayed or re-routed. Insofar as my wife and I have dozens of clients per week flying here to La Paz to fish with our fleet, I would venture to say that at least 30% have had their flights changed… often several times from the original… and sometimes at the last minute.

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Maybe 40% have delayed flights where they either had unexpected waits at
the airport or while sitting on the plane. Perhaps 10% have had their flights outright cancel. Arriving a day or two later than planned, this has created issues with losing hotel nights as well as activities such as fishing.

If a replacement flight can even be found — with many flights full, it’s not always a possibility. Also, not all airlines fly every day. Going home to the U.S. has sometimes been an issue as well, although usually not as much.

A big problem has been with connecting flights. If one connecting flight is
cancelled or extensively delayed, then there is no way for a passenger to make
their next flight in a timely fashion.

To some degree, the airlines point to the spat of bad weather that has hit the U.S. since the beginning of the year. However, not withstanding Mother Nature’s capricious whims, the bigger problem is a result of Covid.

Many airlines laid off thousands of employees last year. Many employees were encouraged to accept retirement packages. Now with travel zooming back, like many industries, there’s a shortage of employees. Running an airline is a
little more complicated than teaching someone to flip burgers.

One doesn’t suddenly find or train flight attendants in the classified section. You can’t train a jet pilot overnight. Aircraft mechanics and maintenance personnel don’t attend a one-week night class to get certified. Ground crews can’t be found on Craigslist.

So, it’s just one more thing to keep an eye out for. There are several things you can do.

For one, don’t assume the airline is going to tell you about changes. Seems kinda logical and good business, but that’s not always the case. I’ve had several clients who were never informed of changes until THE DAY OF TRAVEL.

I’ve had several others who never found out until they were AT THE AIRPORT.
One was told, “Well… we’re sorry. We tried to call you yesterday and also sent an email, but no one answered.” That’s right up there with, “The check is in the mail.”

Do yourself a favor and check… constantly! Especially as the trip gets closer, don’t be the person who turns off their emails and instant messages the last day they leave the office. Be pro-active and avoid surprises.

Be prepared for the possibility of delay.
Bring a book. Bring your medications. Bring a jacket. If there’s a bunch of delays and your flight isn’t until the next day, just assume that any nearby hotel will be full or just not worth the hassle.

So, figure out what you’re gonna do for a few hours sitting in an airport chair or in the restaurant or bar. One of those goofy neck pillows isn’t a bad idea. Even if you’re not having to spend time in the airport, if you’re stuck sitting on the tarmac in your plane for an extra hour or two, you’ll be grateful you had a
neck pillow.

The biggest thing to do is something I have advocated for years.
It’s trip insurance. Google it up. There’s a zillion different companies and plans that will very economically insure pretty much anything on your vacation to missed flights to missed kayak trips, to lost hotel nights or other plans.
A week has not gone by lately where I was not assisting one of our clients help file a claim for compensation because of an airline SNAFU.

Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Jonathan can be reached at his Tailhunter Sportfishing Fleet in La Paz at www.tailhunter.com.

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