In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel industry is slowly on the rise again. The number of airport passengers who pass through TSA checkpoints has increased about 47% from Oct. 9, 2020 to Oct. 9, 2021, even though the industry faced mass cancellations the past 19 months. 

Trip Cancellations and the Effect on Travel Agents

Magical Moments Vacations travel agent Kara Watkins, she said “our clients relied on our expertise and our advice pre-covid, we had to make sure we maintained their trust during this ever-changing time.” 

 Why It’s Newsworthy: Educational and personal travel accounted for $154.9 billion of U.S. travel exports in 2019, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. These exports impacted the national economy by losing that revenue when the pandemic hit.  

Watkins discussed that even though the pandemic brought immense challenges, it also brought opportunities, “I do not think any travel agent, new or old, was fully prepared for the challenges we faced. Every challenge created an opportunity though. It created an opportunity to learn, to adapt and to create a better relationship with our clients.”  

Grace, Kindness and compassion are what helped a lot of us get through this past year and a half,” said Kara Watkins, Travel Agent

When the nation shut down along with most of the world, people faced trip cancellations and financial loss from the lack of travel insurance. While private companies have their own rules in place, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a statement on Sept. 10, 2021, which included the following:

 Airlines and ticket agents have a legal obligation to provide refunds to consumers if the airline cancels or significantly changes a consumer’s flight,” Stated the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The department goes on to read, “However, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines had difficulty processing the significant volume of refund requests that they received. Many airlines were also initially reluctant to provide the required refunds.”

Data shows that 22,357 consumer complaints were filed in the first six months of 2021, but in the past 18 months 84.3% of complaints were refund related.

Bar graph displaying complaints received and regarding refunds on flights.
Bar graph displaying complaints received and regarding refunds on flights. This data was collected from The U.S. Department of Transportation. (Data Visualization/Katherine Crocker)

Personal and business travel might come to mind first for many people, but educational trips account for billions of dollars for U.S. travel exports. Study abroads have encountered multiple cancelations the past two summers and many students have lost the once in a lifetime opportunity. Two students, Darby Gainey and Taylor Sanderlin, describe their experiences of trip cancellations.

One in four graduating seniors has studied abroad for academic credit during their time at UGA,” according to the  University of Georgia Office of Global Engagement.

Pre-pandemic, the University of Georgia had “more than 2,000 UGA students study abroad each year, selecting from over one hundred programs led by UGA faculty.”

While this may seem like an issue of the past, hopeful students still face the risk of study abroad trips being cancelled for 2022. 

Industry professionals, eager to learn students, explorers, and so many more are ready for the travel industry to be back in full swing, but it is going to take some time.

Katherine Crocker is a fourth year majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.



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