What’s caused the rental car shortage? Can I still rent a vehicle?

Let us start off by saying yes, you can certainly still rent vehicles – ground transportation is just experiencing it’s own challenges at the moment. No different than any other part of our industry, or the rest of the world for that matter.As with anything in life, you have to ask yourself why? Unfortunately there’s no one answer where we can point and say, “this is the reason”. However, we have collected the top contributing factors for us to better understand what our partners in this area are currently up against.

Fleet Downsizing

With the initial signs of the pandemic alerting a near full stop to the travel industry, our rental suppliers were forced to sit on their inventory. Without much in the way of reservations in the foreseeable future, many made the tough decision of selling off parts of their fleets to save on maintenance costs and reduce potential losses. 

This would’ve included the larger sized, non-typical rentals, which is why we are seeing mid-sized and compact cars with the best availability.

Supply Chain, Microchip Shortage

Yes, the supply chain issues of our very connected world are persisting. With large amounts of their make-up being electronic, the new vehicle backlog really is stemming from the microchip shortage as it’s a key ingredient to their production. 

Coupled with rental companies only keep their vehicles for 1-2 years before replacing them, this is likely going to be prevalent for the rest of 2022 and beyond.

Increased Demand, Same Supply

More people are back on the road again, with numbers reaching pre-pandemic levels since restrictions began to ease. For some, travelling by road was the only option for more than 6 months, which took would-be air customers out of the sky. This, coupled with the previous points, highlight the somewhat “perfect storm” of the rental vehicle market right now.

Like all other areas of travel that are feeling the effects of increased demand, there are, of course, ways for you to mitigate the challenges you may experience. We’ve outlined 5 things you can do when planning your next trip:

  1. Book ahead where possible

This is the number one approach across the board, especially if you will be travelling during a high season or to an area with any large events. Reserving ahead of time is the best way to ensure lower pricing and availability of your desired vehicle.

  1. Be flexible on vehicle type where possible

We all have our preferences, especially if we travel frequently – we know what we like. Though right now, rental companies have limited supplies of “less typical vehicles”. Intermediate or mid-sized cars are what we are seeing the best availability for, whereas SUVs and trucks are harder to come by.

If you have the ability to size down, go for it – you might save a bit on fuel anyway!

  1. Avoid One-Way drops

One way drops occur when you pick up in on location and drop off in another. This may seem like a simple process on the surface, wouldn’t the 2nd location just start using that vehicle now? Unfortunately it’s more complicated than that. 

Often times the initial rental location requires that vehicle back, so this process usually involved flying or transporting a representative from the rental company to drive the vehicle back to their store. This is why you will see a larger price tag attached to these types of requests, to recoup some of the costs.

  1. Airport locations for pick up

Another area where we’re seeing greater availability is at airport locations, which makes sense since this is where most of the demand is coming from. Those properties also have longer hours, which allows for more flexibility when you need to pick up or drop off during outside of those “banking hours”.

  1. Car service is an option

Just like with air travel, many individuals have been electing to go the private route with hiring a car service. On the surface it may sound more expensive but depending on your actual transportation needs and frequency with which you need to get around, pricing comparison might surprise you!

Whatever your reason for needing ground transportation, know it can be done just with a little extra thought and attention to elements of your travels. Being prepared for what might come is important, as this allows us to have a back up plan and mitigate any delays to our travels.

One of the best ways to be prepared is having a dedicated expert, such as Elite Travel, in your pocket. Whether you need help during or after hours, our team is there for you every step of the way. 

Have more questions about your rental car program? Let’s chat!

Why are so many flights being cancelled? What can I do?

Labor shortages, specifically pilots and airport staff (baggage handlers and security). These positions are obviously crucial, and when executed perfectly they go unnoticed, but their lack of presence is certainly being felt by all right now. While these areas are actively hiring, in the case of pilots, this isn’t an immediate fix. Largely due to the number of training hours it takes for them to become certified and deemed experienced enough to operate commercial flights, which at 1,500 hours we’re okay with because safety first! In fact, across all airlines reports are showing they plan to hire some 12,000 pilots this year – so help is on the way.

Many of us, though, need to travel and want to do so with as little interruption or headache as possible. Which still does happen of course, those smooth trips just don’t make the headlines. There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for the current state of travel to lessen the risk of you, or your luggage being stranded. 

Check-In and Arrive Early

Flight check-in opens 24 hours prior to your departure, the earlier you check in the less likely you are to be bumped from your flight. This is a first line of protection for you to mitigate delays in your travels. Now that you’ve completed that, arrive to the airport early, earlier than you think you need to! 

With fewer trained staff on hand at airports, processes like security will take longer. It will be a better travel day if you arrive three hours early and end up having extra time on your hands VS missing your flight due to long lines.

Carry On is King

Wherever possible, pack light and simply travel with carry on luggage. If you arrive to the airport and discover your flight has been severely delayed or cancelled, you can quickly pivot to booking an alternate flight or other travel methods. Whereas if you arrive, check in your luggage, and then find this out you’re really at the mercy of the airlines/ baggage handlers. 

We’ve all seen the horror photos of thousands of bags piled in warehouses or at the carousels, save yourself from this scenario and leave that extra item at home if you can.

Travel Insurance – Trust Us

Surely we’ve all bypassed the use of travel insurance at one point or another in our lives, but in today’s world we really cannot recommend it enough. Not even just for medical or health purposes, but specifically for luggage loss and trip interruption/ cancellation. If you are embarking on travels that do require you to check luggage, then you will likely be in a tough spot if you do get where you’re going and have no personal items! 

Further to that, trip interruption is almost a guarantee at some point in your journey right now. We promise, your future self will be thanking you for making the small investment ahead of time.

Be Mindful of Carriers and Routes

Reading the headlines this past week, you may have seen there were some 10,000 flights delayed in just one day around the world. While it can be comforting to know it’s not an isolated experience, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done. 

Certain carriers are seeing greater affects than others, this can be attributed to advanced planning by adjusting summer routes ahead of time. So there are fewer last minute cancellations or delays because the staff are there to support the flights sold. Also, certain hub airports generally see more traffic than others which means the ripple effects felt are likely worse due to the sheer number of travellers.

These are a few key pieces of the travel puzzle to keep in mind when booking your next business or work-related trip. We all know there’s still a while to go before travel looks like it did prior to the pandemic. Though if you’re aware of the situation and keep the above points in mind this will allow you to plan ahead in what is a challenging situation for all. 

Travel can be stressful, knowing you have a dedicated person to call when things don’t go to plan can help reduce that feeling. Interested in learning how we can be your dedicated travel partner? Let’s get started!

Why do airlines have such long hold times? How can I avoid them?

Most of us have had to call a major airline recent enough to remember the sinking feeling when we hear the hold time from the robotic voice on the other end. You sigh, put your phone on speaker or pop in your headphones and just accept it OR you hang up in frustration. Both are entirely valid responses. 

In this moment we’ve all asked ourselves the question, why are hold times so long? There are many reasons, but a few specific ones worth noting. Let’s shed some light to understand what our friends in the airline industry are going through.

Fewer Trained Staff

We’ve all seen the headlines, touting labor shortages around the country, and airlines are no stranger to this. While the whole industry is on the road to recovery, the air side is a unique one in that there are great amounts of information customer service reps need to be trained on; which takes time. Due to this, each phone call will likely take a bit longer as the new team members learn the ropes and become more comfortable with the countless rules in their field. 

Our partners will get there, we’re happy to be patient as they recover.

Cancellations/ Schedule Changes in Greater Numbers

Slightly stemming from the previous point, with larger numbers of cancellations and schedule changes comes more individuals who need to call in for assistance. Sometimes your newly suggested flights are acceptable which can be taken care of online on your own. 

Other instances though, when you’re delayed by days or just all together cancelled, you need to enlist the help of experts. If a whole flight is cancelled, that means 200+ people may be looking for assistance, and with hundreds of those taking place you can quickly see how the phone lines get busy.

Pend up Demand

With the above two points, coupled along with the fact that more people are now travelling again, for business and leisure alike, this results in simply more people needing assistance than in the past year and a half. Travellers hitting the road again, or for the first time, have more questions than before because, well, things look much different now. 

Now for the big question, how can you avoid these long hold times? While it’s something we’ve all come to accept as a part of the travel world in the near future, there are a few tactics you can use.

Schedule a Call Back 

Book it and continue on with your day; most airlines allow you to schedule these directly on their website. This service is a great way to ensure your time is being used effectively. Rather than listening to the repetitive hold music/ messages, you can carry on as usual and focus on important tasks at hand. While this won’t result in an immediate response from the airline, call back times vary by carrier, you can know that you have a place in line. 

Self-Service Tools Online

Depending on the nature of your needs, there are great resources to use online such as the Chat feature. Which can assist you in a number of ways, including basic changes to your flight, providing additional details and more. Keeping in mind, of course, that all technology has limitations so situations where payment is needed will need to be carried out with a representative.

Call the Priority Line

Having status brings more perks than just lounge access and priority boarding. Depending on the level you hold with the airlines, you are able to connect with them through an alternate Priority Line number which typically has shorter wait times and more direct access to a representative. 

Use an Expert

Our number one suggestion in avoiding long hold times is using an expert like Elite Travel –we take care of everything for you behind the scenes! No waiting on hold, going back and forth with an airline customer service rep – you simply call or email us and continue on with your day while we get to work. Often being able to access your airline tickets from the backend of our system, our team can typically adjust your travels far quicker than direct with the supplier. In certain instances, we’ll utilize our personal industry lines to adjust your tickets with our own dedicated representatives.

At the end of the day, regardless of where you’re going or how you’re getting there all travel plans will require a little more patience and flexibility. Having a team of experts behind you when things don’t go to plan is the peace of mind you need on your next business trip. 

Interested in learning more about how Elite Travel can enhance your program? Let’s get started!

Why is the Cost of Travel Rising? How Can I Avoid Paying More?

At this point we’ve all went to price out an upcoming trip only to find the number on the screen is a lot bigger than we were expecting. You might be thinking: “But my trip last year was half the price!” or “I’ve stayed at that hotel dozens of times, it’s never cost that much.”

While there are many complex reasons why the cost of nearly everything is increasing, there are a few specific to travel that are worth understanding and how they affect your bottom dollar.

  1. Fuel Prices are Rising

This comes as no surprise to us since the value of fuel affects most aspects of our lives. Just like the prices at the grocery store increase due to higher costs for freighting, the same applies to travel.

Concerning flights specifically, the price of jet fuel has already increased about 50% this year which is the highest we’ve seen in over a decade. Analysts have predicted a 4 month delay for fares to catch up to these rising costs. With that in mind we can likely expect to see prices continue climbing through the first half of 2022.

  1. There is a Pent Up Leisure Demand

After many long months of lockdowns and tight restrictions, it’s safe to say the majority of us want to get the heck out of the house and see more than just the view from our living room. Whether it’s visiting family out on the coast or finally booking that dream trip to Spain, people are going places this year.

Up to 70% of leisure travellers across the globe have stated they are willing to spend more on their vacations this year, this will in turn affect those who need to travel for work. The age old balance of supply and demand will come into play heavily here.

  1. Many Cancelled Routes Haven’t Been Reinstated

If you or your employees frequent those “middle of nowhere”, rural destinations then you will likely continue to see higher fares. Not so much due to leisure travellers but rather as a result of route suspensions not yet being lifted. In fact, further schedule adjustments were just announced at the end of December, so that, coupled with increased fuel pricing, will mean more stopovers in addition to higher ticket costs.

Those looking to return to international business travel, though, will be eager to see many airlines now reinstating previously suspended routes.  

  1. Higher Targets to Make Up for Lost Time

Every area of the travel industry was seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With seemingly the worst of it behind us, everyone is looking to move back into the green. 

Along with the above factors, this too will shape pricing for most travel related products. Nightly hotel rates, for example, are forecasted to continue climbing up roughly 23% through to the end of 2023. The industry expects hotel increases to somewhat lead the charge as they look to regain lost revenues.

While ground transportation costs, such as rental vehicles, are predicted to only rise by about 7% through 2023 there is still the challenge with limited supply of new vehicles.

With these factors in mind, you’re now likely thinking “how can I mitigate the increased cost of travel for our company?”

Our team at Elite has a few suggestions to get you started.

  1. Book Further in Advance Where Possible

We understand business travel is never set in stone, but since the industry is forecasting costs to continue rising through the year, you’re more likely to capture lower pricing the further out you book. In general, as well, prices rise the closer you get to your travel dates.

We always recommend booking options with greater flexibility so if you do need to adjust, it comes with a smaller price tag.

  1. Review Your Company Travel Budget

Just like with your personal budget, if you only allot $100 a month for your groceries but are actually paying $400, you’re going to feel as though you’re falling behind.

Now that we are nearing the end of Q1 in 2022, it is a great time to revisit your quarterly or annual budget for employee travel to ensure you’re accurately in line with the current climate.

  1. Partner with a Travel Management Company

Whether you halted exploring this service through the pandemic or haven’t thought of it before, now is the perfect time to begin.

With greater access to airline contracts, increased buying power with hotel properties and unmatched rental supplier relationships, Elite Travel Management will bring great value to your travel program. Regular reporting for increased visibility and implementing unique cost saving strategies is just the beginning.

While no one can really say when travel prices will actually begin to level out, realistically there will always be something happening in the world that has an affect – that’s just the way it is. But what we can do is prepare.

Do you have questions? Maybe you’re eager to get started. Let’s chat!

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