Car rental agencies working to keep up with increased travel demand

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 6:03 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - As more places open back up and COVID restrictions continue to ease, summer time travel is on the rise. However, people looking to hit the road or book a flight may run into some pandemic-related disruptions.

The demand for rental cars is up with 62 percent of Virginians surveyed saying they plan on taking a trip this summer, according to AAA.

“It’s higher than even a normal year. You’re really seeing people wanting to get out and do things,” Andrew Wiley, owner of Consumers Auto Warehouse (CAW) in Staunton, said.

With a dramatic increase in rental requests CAW says they’re trying to keep up.

Consumers Auto Warehouse typically has about 15 rental cars. Right now, there are only about five in the lot and almost all of them are already reserved.

“We’re having to juggle reservations just to make sure we have cars coming back and available for people when they have a reservation. A lot of times people are calling needing a week or 10 days and we don’t have something available during that time,” Wiley explained.

Getting more cars to rent out has also been a challenge.

“It used to be pretty easy to resupply our rental fleet. We would just go to the auction and buy a late-model, low-mileage van or car, but as everybody knows the car market’s really difficult right now. It’s very difficult to even find those vehicles much less how much they’re going to cost,” Wiley said.

And for the first time in 20 years, Consumers Auto Warehouse had to buy new cars to add to its rental fleet.

If you have a trip planned for later in the summer and need a rental car, Wiley says you should start looking to make reservations now.

“The only other thing is to check with the rental agency about what their reservation policy is. We have a lot of people call us up and had a reservation at another place and they show up and they don’t have a car available,” Wiley said.

Cost is something else to keep in mind when renting. AAA reports the average daily car rental rates have doubled with prices topping out at over $100 a day.

“People are amazed at how much it costs to rent a minivan for a week or a car for a week. They’ve doubled and tripled,” Wiley said.

CAW did have to raise their prices as well, for the first time in 12 years, based on the cost of the new cars.

“You might want to consider taking your own car. I know a lot of people decide to take a rental vehicle because it’s more convenient, but just check out those prices and do a little cost-benefit analysis before you decide what to do,” Wiley said.

Meanwhile, airports across the U.S. continue to set record checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration screened over 2 million people on Sunday for the first time since March 2020.

With the increased number of travelers, TSA also facing a bit of a staffing shortage nationwide, with Transportation Security Officers attrition 40% lower than pre-pandemic levels.

However, TSA says they feel they are able to handle the increased demand in travel. The following is a statement from TSA:

“The Transportation Security Administration is well-positioned to meet rising traveler volumes. As in years before, the agency began a concerted recruitment effort this past winter in anticipation of increasing volumes and is on pace with established benchmarks to meet hiring goals. The agency continues to leverage established, creative recruitment strategies to meet personnel needs, including nationwide recruitment incentives and targeted retention incentives in strategic markets.”

TSA ramps up hiring each spring to get ready for summer travel, which is the busiest season of the year for them.

So far, TSA says they have hired around 3,100 new TSOs in preparation for 2021 summer volumes, with more candidates in the hiring pipeline. They add that they have been averaging over 5,000 Transportation Security Officer applications per week.

Right now, TSA is offering brand new employees $1,000 recruitment incentives nationwide.

Retention incentives are also being used to supplement the salaries for the entire uniformed workforce in a particular labor market and are intended to improve retention of employees given the competition for labor in a specific area, according to TSA.

In addition to hiring new TSOs, TSA has allowed part-time employees to convert to full-time positions, increased overtime, and adjusted shifts to support summer travel volumes.

A TSA spokesperson wrote WHSV that staffing has not been an issue locally.

“There are no staffing issues at SHD for TSA. We have enough TSA officers to handle the flights. There are very few flights out of SHD,” Lisa Farbstein said in an email.

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