I told you so!

The crazy "return" of travel is worse than anyone could have predicted — well, almost anyone

I hate to say it, but I told you so!

That's what I've found myself saying in the last few days, as travelers continue to complain about substandard service and extortionate prices.

I told you this would happen.

Now, granted, I'm coming at this from the perspective of a consumer advocate. I'm looking at a dump truck full of new cases every day. But even if you adjust for the negative bias, this is still a summer for the record books. 

And these aren't the kind of records anyone wants. They involve soaring COVID cases, higher prices, awful service and festering anger that threatens to boil over in the summer heat.

Before we go there, I'd love to get your thoughts. Have you had any "I-told-you-so" moments lately? Push the red button to leave your comments. I can’t wait to read them.

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You know, I think this calls for some art by my brother ...

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No, the pandemic is not over

I've said this repeatedly, and now we have the numbers to prove it: The pandemic isn't over. The delta variant (which some have called the Darwin variant) is on the loose in the United States and elsewhere. 

Here's a close-up of what could be the start of the fourth wave in the United States. 

Oh, and did you hear about the "highly infections" lambda variant? It's a thing. At this rate, we'll run out of letters in the Greek alphabet soon.

You can safely book a trip if — and only if — you have been vaccinated. Otherwise, the Delta variant is coming to getcha. And you should stay home until the danger has passed. Also, get vaccinated.

🎧 EXCLUSIVE: You can predict the future*. I'll tell you how in my latest podcast. (*Some restrictions apply.)

Air rage is real this summer

For months now, I've been documenting the rising anger of air travelers. Taxpayers gave billions to airlines, who pocketed our fares. When we got pushy, they demanded an immediate and severe crackdown.

Here they are, practicing their cuffing skills. This is from an actual internal airline memo. Hey, that could be you this summer!

Also, the FAA has proposed record fines against passengers for their misbehavior. Meanwhile, U.S. airlines have gone unpunished for their greed. 

No wonder passengers are fit to be tied.

Price gouging is real, too

Last spring, we saw the "carpocalypse," with high prices and scant selection. There were a few ways to avoid it. Sometimes it Hertz to be right. 

But it's not just car rental companies. Vacation rentals are costlier than ever — and harder to find. This isn't the summer of higher prices; it's the summer of price gouging. I'm hearing of people who are spending double or triple the usual amount for rentals. 

The vacation rental platform Guesty says summer reservation volume is 270 percent higher than 2020 and 80 percent higher than 2019. Of course, as demand rises, so do prices. Travelers are paying 30 percent more per night this summer than in 2020, and 28 percent more than pre-pandemic 2019 prices.

Chances are, we're paying even more than that. The reason: Vacation rental fees are up, too. Hosts and owners are charging "resort" fees, "convenience" fees and higher cleaning fees.

It's absurd.

People are canceling instead of facing this nonsense

When I saw the number of comments on Sunday's Washington Post story, I knew that I struck a nerve. It was an article about people who were canceling their summer vacation in the face of high prices and a fourth wave of COVID. 

There are also colossal service problems, as hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers refuse to return to their low-wage jobs.

It feels like another lost summer for travelers. But it doesn't have to be. 

Here's an idea for the travel industry: Instead of gouging customers and roughing them up this summer, why not give them a little break and treat them with kindness? Also, why not pay your workers a living wage, so they don't have to rely on tips?

What you can do about it

Other than postponing your travel until after the summer, what can you do? You can complain. Scroll down and leave a comment to do that. Did you know that a sizable portion of this newsletter's readership is in the tourism industry? They make the big decisions about pricing and service — and they read your comments and take them into account.

You can also sign the Travelers United petition demanding that the Secretary of Transportation stop airlines from stealing $10 billion from pandemic passengers. If the travel industry doesn't do the right thing, maybe we can persuade the government to take some positive action.

I wish I could say that no one saw all this coming. That a fourth wave of COVID, the disruptive airline passengers, the price gouging and the service problems were a complete surprise. They weren't. 

The signs were all there. And there are more signs ahead for the fall and winter. I'll make sure you don't miss any of those.

Just keep reading …

OK, your turn. Tell me about your "I-told-you-so" moment this summer. Did you see any of these trends before they became widely apparent? How did you spot them? Which trends do you foresee for the next few months?

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