Travel

Air travel is a mess. Can this be fixed?

360 gives you different perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What is happening

Air travel in the United States has been riddled with cancellations, delays and confusion in recent months as understaffed airlines struggle to keep up with travelers looking to catch up on two years of pandemic-fueled vacations.

From Thursday to Monday alone, more than 2,200 flights across the country and more than 26,000 flights were cancelled. delayed, according to the flight tracking service. These disruptions come as airports face the highest number of travelers they have seen since the start of the pandemic. The Transportation Security Administration has processed on Friday, the most in one day since February 2020. As chaotic as the 4th of July weekend was for travelers, it was actually smoother than some others.

Last month, Transportation Minister Pete Buttigieg urged them to “thoroughly examine” the schedule in order to operate as many flights as possible during the peak of the summer tourist season. Several major airlines have reduced the number of daily flights to limit the number of cancellations and delays.

Experts say the core of the problem is that while traveler numbers have nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, staffing levels have remained the same. Despite receiving $54 billion in pandemic funds help retain employees, airlines are still struggling to fill their ranks with enough pilots, flight attendants, porters and customer service representatives. Airlines are also blaming the disruptions on staff shortages in air traffic control, which is run by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Why is there a debate

Most experts say there is no quick solution to airline staff shortages due to a tough job market and the lengthy training period needed to upgrade the skills of critical workers, especially pilots.

Many argue that it would make more sense for airlines to continue to limit the number of flights they offer at the moment. While this will result in fewer options and probably proponents say it will at least help prevent some of the major disruptions travelers have to deal with.

Some airline worker groups, including the Airline, have called for higher wages and reduced overtime, which they say will help attract and retain key employees. Others see opportunities for regulators to help increase the number of pilots available, including by reducing the hours of training required to be allowed to fly and by raising or eliminating the mandatory retirement age for pilots that is currently in place. at level 65.

Some lawmakers have urged the Department of Transportation to take a much more aggressive stance in holding airlines accountable for schedule disruptions. , I-Vt., has called for fines of up to $55,000 per passenger when flights must be canceled because they cannot be fully manned. Several Democrat members of Congress did .

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