INDIANAPOLIS — AAA projects 42 million people will hit the road for 4th of July travel. That’s the highest number of drivers they have ever seen.
“We want to encourage you to think about when you are going to be traveling 4th of July weekend to avoid those peak travel times. Peak travel times are typically in the afternoon on Thursdays and Fridays,” advised Lisa Wall, senior manager of Promotions and Communications with AAA. “If you can travel in the morning, that’s probably the best time to hit the road.”
The holiday comes as gas prices continue to plague Hoosiers. The average gas tank is 14 gallons. With today’s gas prices, drivers across the country may spend almost $3 billion on gas.
“The gas price, we can really tell it’s crazy. It’s crazy, but we must pay it. We can’t move without the gas,” said Telas Mbachem who is traveling to Chicago for the first time with his family. “We are visiting family over there.”
“It’s so costly,” continued Patience Temah who is traveling Mbachem. “Normally driving was supposed to be less expensive, but because of the gas, it’s expensive too.”
Some people may be resorting to driving over flying. There have been thousands of delays and hundreds of cancellations this week so far. Industry experts are blaming staffing shortages between airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“If the crew is not there, the airplane just doesn’t go, and that doesn’t tend to be a delay, but a flat out cancellation,” explained Mike Suckow, Purdue Aviation and Transportation professor. “The industry ecosystem is not immune to the talent shortage issues facing the world.”
Aviation experts tell us that airlines may need 6,000 pilots by the end of the year. Companies like Delta are targeting a younger audience to fill jobs. Delta recently dropped their college degree requirement to become a pilot.
“How do we attract what we call ‘first generation?’ Our students we have here, 80% of them are probably second or third generation,” explained Suckow. Saying most of his students, “It’s people who did not know the industry was a viable career path for them.”
The delays and cancellations are hampering Hoosiers trying to get around. The STARTedUP Foundation is a local non-profit helping Indiana teens to become entrepreneurs. Recently, they held a pitch competition for high school students around the state called Innovate WithIN. These talented teens have started businesses, and pitched their ideas “Shark Tank” style, hoping to come away with prize money. Part of the reward for finalists was a trip to Tampa Bay to meet big name CEOs and entrepreneurs.
“We had one small layover in Atlanta that turned into a not so small layover,” said Don Wettrick, CEO of the STARTedUP Foundation. “All of a sudden, out of no where, it said it was canceled. We were like, what happened. Oh it’s the weather? We are looking at the radar both in Tampa and Atlanta, and we are like there is nothing there. They were like, ‘No sorry, sir. It’s cancelled due to weather.’ We are like what weather?”
Wettrick and his students took to social media to voice their displeasure. Southwest Airlines eventually responded on social media, reiterating that the flight was cancelled for weather. The flight was cancelled at 10 a.m., however Wettrick says the airline claims they couldn’t get them to Tampa until the following day.
“In a hurry, we ended up chartering a bus because we had 21 high school students with us, and this wasn’t going to work,” continued Wettrick. “We are a non-profit investing in these students, and this is coming out of our pockets, so to say, ‘No refunds, we are just out.’”