With a turbulent summer travel season behind, airline travelers should brace for more mass flight delays and cancellations in the fall and winter months. That is the warning from the union representing American Airlines pilots.
“They really haven’t changed much,” Capt. Dennis Tajer of the Allied Pilots Association said about the airlines. “The words have changed. They brought down some capacity. But the bottom line is, when the weather hits, the recovery afterward is on us, out on the front line. And they’ve not changed the way they’re scheduling us.”
Travel troubles have become a hallmark of post-pandemic flying. So far this year, the rate of flight delays is up 23% from pre-pandemic levels, according to FlightAware, with the average delay time approaching an hour. The rate of cancellations has increased 26% compared to 2019. With nearly as many people flying as before the coronavirus pandemic but fewer planes in the air, this means it is harder to book passengers on a new connecting flight.
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The Biden administration has done little to improve the situation, short of calling on airlines to refund passengers dealing with delays and cancellations. The Department of Transportation recently unveiled an online dashboard to inform fliers what they are entitled to.
In addition to airline staffing problems, weather and air traffic controller shortages have contributed to the travel chaos. Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator Billy Nolen said he is “guardedly optimistic that the rest of this year should be good.”
For their part, the commercial carriers, through industry group Airlines for America, say they are “adjusting to employment realities and reevaluating pre-pandemic staffing models.”
“Travelers have returned to the skies at a rapid pace — quicker than most industry experts and analysts predicted — and carriers have been aggressively hiring, adjusting schedules, updating travel policies and expediting new technologies,” an Airlines for America spokesperson told FOX Business.
Airlines for America also points out the airlines proactively cut summer capacity by 16% and reduced flight schedules for September and October by 15% compared to pre-pandemic levels.