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California Reopens: Bay Area Air Travelers Deal With Return Of High Prices, Airline Staffing Crunch - 'It's Ridiculous'

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – The days of wildly cheap pandemic airline fares are over, even though Bay Area airports are not back to pre-pandemic traffic levels.

"It's ridiculous how expensive it is to fly," said Charlene Guarriello after landing at Mineta San Jose International Airport. "Even if you make a reservation three or four weeks in advance. And the flight is packed. No service on the plane."

Price complaints, lines at the counters, a struggle for curbside space: The familiar trappings of air travel are returning, along with a new frustration as we leave the pandemic.

San Jose International Airport
Travelers at Mineta San Jose International Airport on June 22, 2021. (CBS)

"I think this flight was smaller because they just can't hire enough flight attendants," said Ellen Greenwald upon arriving in San Francisco International Airport.

American Airlines in particular has been hit with a staffing crunch, forcing the cancelation of nearly 1,000 flights next month.

"The airlines were caught with their pants down," said travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt. "They scheduled too many flights, and they didn't have enough people ready to operate the flights, operate the airports, and the companies that they work with were short too."

This is a problem Bay Area airports have seen coming, and they're trying to get ahead of it.

"It's something that we do every single week now, to look at what is that pace of recovery because we want those groups to be ready for the volumes that come," San Francisco International Airport spokesperson Doug Yakel told KPIX 5.

SFO is still below half of its normal daily passenger totals, one of the slower recoveries in the country. But remember, it's the airlines that decide how many people fly in and out of San Francisco.

"The airline schedule ultimately will constrain the amount of people we're going to see here at the airport," Yakel said. "And that's a moving target, and we want to be sure that we're ready for that."

San Jose is also still below 50% of normal traffic. They too are hoping the airlines will increase their capacity.

"So we're really hoping that our airline partners will continue to add flights and we will be ready for passengers when they come back," said SJC spokesperson Keonnis Taylor.

Oakland International Airport, which relies more on leisure travelers, has recovered more of its pre-pandemic travel, now closing in on 70% of its regular traffic.

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