Airlines said they were prepared to avoid the service issues that hit much of the industry last year. But between Friday and Monday, US airlines canceled 2,653 flights, or nearly 3% of their total schedule, according to FlightAware tracking service. That’s more than they canceled for the same holiday weekend in the previous three years combined.
In 2019, the year before the pandemic, US airlines canceled just 1.2% of their scheduled flights despite having 6,600 more flights on schedule.
Experts say passengers are right to fear they will see something similar before the end of the summer.
“This does not bode well for the summer travel season as we expect a repeat in the summer months as more people fly,” Helan Becker, an analyst at Cowen airlines, said in a note to clients on Tuesday. “It was a chance for airlines to show that last summer’s delays won’t happen again this summer, and yet it didn’t.”
Airlines have significantly fewer employees, especially pilots, than before the pandemic. They received $54 billion in taxpayer bailouts at the height of the health crisis to prevent forced layoffs, but most airlines offered buyouts and early retirement packages to cut staff and save money while air traffic came close to a halt. But it takes years to certify pilots and some other airline employees.
As such, airlines have little margin for error when faced with bad weather, air traffic control issues, or employee calls. fell ill, which they said happened over the weekend.
“More than at any time in our history, various factors currently impacting our operations are weather and air traffic management, vendor staffing, an increase in Covid cases contributing to higher than planned unscheduled absences in some workgroups – result in the operation not always meeting the standards that Delta has set for the industry in recent years,” Delta’s chief account officer, Allison Osband, said in an online post.
“When you stress test an airline model, you see the same results,” Thayer said. As flights are already booked to capacity, “the cancellation of one flight is not only causing a cascade effect but also a tidal wave of problems. This has been observed over and over again,” Thayer added.
With planes as full as ever, it may take longer for airlines to find passengers who have booked tickets for canceled flights. another place to get to your destination, Thayer said. Call centers are also understaffed and overwhelmed with demand, especially when things don’t go the way they did…