Staff shortages contribute to chaotic summer air travel
Scandinavian airline SAS filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States after a thousand pilots voted to strike on Monday. The carrier has canceled half of its flights.
Air travel in Europe has been particularly chaotic this summer, but there has also been a lot of turbulence here in the United States. More than 2,000 flights were canceled over the July 4 weekend and more than 25,000 were delayed, according to FlightAware.
The industry is grappling with staff shortages as demand climbs to near pre-pandemic levels, and that is unlikely to improve anytime soon.
Third Bridge Group analyst Peter McNally said the aviation industry’s problems boiled down to three Cs: capacity, captains and cancellations.
Airlines have been slow to add capacity because they cannot hire enough captains or pilots, leading to cancellations, he said. “It’s a mess, as anyone can see.”
To cut costs during the pandemic, airlines have offered pilots early retirement packages. In addition, training programs do not produce new pilots quickly enough.
“It was an emerging issue before COVID,” McNally said. “And it’s only accelerated.”
Last week, some Delta pilots staged protests at seven airports across the country, demanding higher wages as overtime increased.
“It’s not a labor issue; it’s a problem of airline mismanagement,” Captain Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International, said in a statement.
Aviation analyst and consultant Robert Mann said airlines had received more than $50 billion in government funding to bolster staff during the pandemic. But the industry still furloughed or laid off hundreds of thousands of workers.
“Attempting to rehire these people and qualify them and get security clearances at this volume creates a unique problem,” he said, pointing to wait times for background checks that have taken up to ‘to six or eight weeks, from one or two.
Airlines for America, a trade group representing major US airlines, pointed to a shortage of air traffic controllers in a June letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that there was no “system-wide” shortage of air traffic controllers, although there were isolated personnel issues in a few locations.
“Many factors contribute to air travel delays and cancellations. The number one cause of airline flight delays and cancellations is convective weather in Florida. Second, there is the demand for travel to Florida.
Staff shortages of this nature are expected to persist for some time, said travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt.
“After years of training, you have to submit your application, go through background checks which include a security check, pass drug tests and the interview process and more,” he said. declared.
Harteveldt said it could take until 2025 for staffing levels to catch up – unless a slowing economy reduces travel demand.
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