Travelers, Travel Agencies Feeling Impact of Government Shutdown

Travelers, Travel Agencies Feeling Impact of Government Shutdown

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Today marks the 31st day into the government shutdown, and things aren’t looking any better for the travel industry.

National parks are overrun with garbage and vandalism, and TSA agents and Homeland Security employees are still without pay and calling out at alarming rates. A recent CBS article broke down how hotels are starting to feel the effects of the shutdown and international travelers may be swayed by news reports from booking trips to the U.S.

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Now that the U.S. has approached one month in the government shutdown, it’s apparent that some travelers and travel agents are starting to feel the impact, some in bigger or smaller ways than others.

The primary concerns for travelers, it seems, has to do with long TSA security lines. Hugh Sheppard, an advisor at Encore Travel in Banner Elk, North Carolina, told TravelPulse: “The biggest question is about the TSA, and of course no one knows from day to day what will happen there, but we’re advising people to be aware of the situation and be ready for delays.”

He added, “When we plan flights, we always plan for delays anyway, so layovers typically are set up with plenty of time for contingencies. It’s really just getting the traveler in the mindset to be ready for anything and we’re always here to help in any situation.”

Senior travel consultant at AAA in Salt Lake City, George Andritsakis, has had the same experience as Sheppard: “At my office, the only questions we’ve had are regarding which TSA checkpoints at various airports are shut down. Other than that, business is still booming for us.”

“We’ve made a list of which airports have closed checkpoints and which airports have long processing times.”

All in all, it seems that all travel agents are having to stress to their clients, perhaps more than normal, that they need to arrive earlier to the airport, hope for the best when it comes to security lines, but expect the worst.

“We have added in additional line items into their itineraries stressing the importance of arriving earlier than usual for their flights when flying commercial,” said Evan Croner, founder and managing partner at RNE Partners in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Making lists of airports affected by callouts or telling clients to arrive earlier than normal isn’t necessarily a “big impact” on the day-to-day business for many travel agents.

“We’re swamped right now and have had no real effects of the government shutdown. There have been some questions about it, but everyone so far is still traveling and no one has canceled or altered plans due to the shutdown,” Sheppard said.

But that’s not the case for all travel agents.

Mitch Toren, owner of TripGuy.com, which is based in Ivyland, Pennsylvania, has witnessed how the government shutdown is affecting his business.

“It’s unfortunate but we have had a few clients either cancel outright or postpone trips as a result of their current financial insecurity,” Toren said. “We are doing everything we can to work with our suppliers to provide payment plans or something similar, hoping it comes to an end sooner than later.”

Another travel agent, Jennifer D. had a similar experience:

“I asked a potential client about a trip she mentioned to me in December and her response was that before she spends any money on a trip, she needs to make sure she doesn’t have to help any family. She has three close family members that have government jobs.”

Other agents we spoke to mentioned travel agencies who work with the federal agencies. With the shutdown, less government travel means canceled or fewer bookings by travel agents who have gone through the bidding process and secured these lucrative clients.

Delta Airlines claims it will lose $25 million this month from the loss of business that comes directly from government employees and contractors who fly with the airline. If Delta is losing that much, it begs the question—how much are travel agents who work with those government employees and contractors losing?

Though there has yet to be any clear indication or proof that travelers are suffering from less efficient security and maintenance protocols due to the shutdown, some in the travel industry have said this could be the case, whether travelers realize it or not.

Captain Jo DePete, the President of the Air Line Pilot Association, specifically points this out in a letter he wrote to President Trump urging him to end the shutdown.

“At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) there are fewer safety inspectors than are needed in order to ensure the air traffic control infrastructure is performing at its peak levels of performance. There are also airline and aircraft manufacturing oversight activities that either stop or are significantly reduced,” DePete wrote.

The government shutdown may be having minimal effects on most agents, but it’s clear that it’s costing thousands of travelers associated with the federal government the opportunity to take a trip or putting them in debt now that they can no longer afford their travel agent-booked vacation.

With it being the 31st day of the government shutdown, some travel agents don’t see it getting any better for their clients if the shutdown continues.

“I would assume that the longer it lasts the more clients that will be impacted,” Toren of TripGuy.com said.

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