Is it just us, or has this summer been particularly difficult for travelers?
Sure, the price of fuel is down and airline tickets are cheaper, but the actual “getting there” part has been wrought with danger, setbacks and startling discomfort. It seems like we can’t go more than a few days without hearing a shocking story about crazy turbulence, power outages or the constant newsmaker — Zika. Going on a vacation is supposed to be fun, but given all the news of inconveniences and mishaps, travelers might do better staying home.
Here are a few travel lowlights from the summer so far:
Passengers injured by extreme turbulence
Turbulence is always a risk of flying, it’s part of the territory. But passengers aboard a JetBlue flight got the scare of their lives when their plane suddenly plummeted out of the sky. According to the Boston Globe, everything was normal when JetBlue Flight 429 left Boston on Aug. 12, but halfway through the flight to Sacramento, the plane made a sudden drop. “People were flying all over the place,” passenger Dr. Alan H. Lee told the Globe. “If people weren’t wearing their seat belt, they hit their head on the ceiling.” Twenty-two passengers and two flight attendants were injured, and the plane was diverted to Rapid City, S.D. After regrouping, JetBlue ordered a replacement plane to transport the uninjured passengers to Sacramento, while others stayed behind to get medical treatment.
Airline outages cause widespread cancellations
No one notices when an airline cancels one flight, but the world stood still on Aug. 8 when Delta announced that it was canceling more 1,000 flights because of a computer outage. The glitch left thousands of travelers stranded in the airport, many taking to Twitter and Facebook to air their frustrations. As for Delta, they were able to get their systems up and running about 6 hours after the outage, but the damage was already done. The airline spent the next couple of days delaying and canceling flights, ultimately unable to get completely back on schedule until Aug. 11. Passengers affected by the disturbance received a voucher from Delta to refund or rebook their ticket. Even so, little can be done to ease the stress and drama that ensued after the computer failure.
Southwest suffered a similar fate on July 20 when a router at its data center in Dallas failed. At one point, all flights were grounded, setting off a domino effect of setbacks. After a few days, the airline had canceled about 2,300 flights and ruined countless vacations.
Hotel data breach exposes credit card information
Delta isn’t the only company having computer issues this summer. HEI Hotels and Resorts recently reported a data security breach at 20 of the properties it operates around the US, including Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG hotels.
According to a notice to customers, a malicious software was found in payment processing systems used at hotel restaurants, bars, spas and lobby shops. The breach, which started in March 2015, could have exposed the names, credit account numbers, expiration dates and verification codes of thousands of customers. Unfortunately, HEI is unable to contact all of the customers who might have been affected, so if you stayed at one of the properties where the breach occurred, check your credit card statement for any fraudulent charges. If something is out of place, contact your card issuer immediately.
Terrorist attack at Turkey airport
Few moments shook us more this summer than the bomb and gun attack on innocent travelers at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on June 28. According to reports, the three suspects were affiliated with ISIS, and opened fire in the terminal entrance before blowing themselves up. The attack killed 44 people and injured at least 230 others. After this violent event, the Ministry of Culture reported that tourism in Turkey was down 41% in international arrivals compared to 2015 — the biggest tourism decline since 1994.
Zika’s summer surge
It’s hard to mention travel without talking about Zika — the mosquito-borne virus that continues to terrify travelers. In January, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised pregnant women against traveling to 14 countries and territories in Central and South America because of the link between microcephaly in the babies of mothers infected with Zika while pregnant. In addition, the World Health Organization declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern in February 2016.
In response, this summer thousands of travelers canceled their vacations, weddings, honeymoons and babymoons to places with Zika. Recently added to that list is Florida, where health officials have found 30 non-travel related cases of Zika.
The number of travelers canceling airfare reached such a high that the notoriously strict airlines had to loosen their policies. So far, each major US airline now allows pregnant women and those advised not to travel refunds for their flight. Each airline has their own cut-off date and rule about travel companions.
Passengers faint on stranded bus in China
Taking the train is usually a reliable mode of transportation…until it’s not. In China, dozens of passengers fainted on Aug. 12 after their train got stuck on the tracks in the sizzling heat. According to the news site China Gate, the high-speed train was headed from Beijing to Shenzhen when it encountered a power outage. While waiting for repairs, passengers were stranded on the train (the doors wouldn’t open) for more than two hours, sweating as temperatures reached a staggering 104 degrees. Pictures quickly circulated on social media of listless passengers sweating profusely on their backs and faces. The train eventually got on its way, but with service like that, we wouldn’t be surprised if these passengers decided to drive next time.
Brittany Jones-Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Finance.