Flight delays and cancellations pile up: summer travel looks messy

Airlines are crying uncle. Short on staff, they are responding to the sudden increase in demand by reducing the number of flights and reducing their obligations to regional airports.

Why is it important: Americans are eager to travel again, and regional airports are making it easier to access some of the country’s remote attractions.

Lead news: On Wednesday, American Airlines said it plans to stop flying to Islip, New York; Ithaca, New York; Toledo, Ohio; and Dubuque, Iowa.

  • And United Airlines is cutting 50 flights a day from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, a major hub for travelers in the New York area.
  • The 30 airports have lost “at least half of the departures they had in 2019,” the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
  • JetBlue and Spirit Airlines have previously announced cuts to their summer schedules.

What they say: “The biggest losers, if you will, are people who either live in small communities or travel to small destinations,” Scott Keys, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, tells Axios.

By numbers: Airlines canceled 793,018 flights in North America in the first 23 weeks of the year, up 21% from the same period before the 2019 pandemic, according to OAG’s flight data tracking system.

  • On Wednesday alone, there were 5,883 flight delays within the US, to and from the US, according to FlightAware.
  • Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg last week warned that his department could take action against airlines that do not comply with consumer protection standards.

Game state: Airlines say they are struggling to keep up in part because they don’t have enough staff to deal with the surge in tourists.

  • “I really want to underline how drastic it is to cut flights from the summer schedule,” Keys says. “It would be like Walmart saying we are not going to open on Black Friday. The fact that they are cutting schedules during these summer months really highlights the difficult situation they are in.”

Yes, target: The aviation industry had 751,165 employees as of April, up from a pandemic low of 673,663 in November 2020, according to the Ministry of Transportation.

  • This is the second-highest monthly figure in the last 21 years, trailing only 753,382 in February 2020.

Keep in mind: The TSA is also trying to keep up with the increase in travel as it tackles the labor shortage that other employers are struggling with.

  • “It’s just an ongoing train wreck,” says Keys.

bottom line: Get ready for some travel disruption this summer.


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