With air traffic suddenly increasing to near pre-pandemic levels, DFW Airport is struggling to hire enough drivers for its shuttle buses and passengers are complaining about long delays at least during peak periods.
Michelle Kap and her husband got away last week to Cozumel, Mexico, their first big vacation since the pandemic.
"Just a relaxing beach vacation,” Kap said.
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Then they arrived home.
The problem was they parked at the terminal where they had taken off but landed at a different terminal.
Usually, it's just a short trip on an orange shuttle called Terminal Link for passengers to get back to their vehicles.
But Sunday night, the Kaps and other passengers waited and waited.
"You're completely held hostage. You can't walk,” she said. "There were no Ubers. There was nothing. It was extremely frustrating. People yelling. It was awful. People were waiting well over an hour."
She said they watched as full-size employee buses kept driving by.
"They were essentially empty. They were arriving every five or 10 minutes,” she said. “So if they just switched them and maybe used the smaller buses for the employees and the larger buses for the travelers who are waiting to get to their cars, that might solve the problem."
In a statement, the airport said staffing levels of shuttle drivers are half what they were in February 2020.
"We recognize the inconsistent service levels and are working closely with our partners to overcome these challenges,” the statement said.
The airport said passenger traffic is returning to more than 80% of 2019 summer travel levels with up to 200,000 passengers a day.
Two shuttle services need drivers – Terminal Link and Express, the airport said. Both the North and South remote parking lots remain closed with no timetable for reopening them.
But enough parking spots are available in the terminals and express lots, the airport said.
Kap said she and her husband were finally able to get on a shuttle bus after about 90 minutes.
Add in a weather delay to get their baggage, and they said it took longer to get from the airport home to downtown Dallas than the entire flight from Mexico.
"They're just not ready for this resurgence of travel,” Kap said.