Ahead of the fourth weekend of July, airlines are facing a wave of concern over cancellations of flights – and new pressure from Washington to make sure they do not put travelers in the lurch.
Wednesday saw more than 2,000 cancellations in a single day, according to FlightAware data, with uncertainty continuing into the holiday season. The increase in canceled flights is particularly bad because it happens across all airlines, which strains the system’s capacity and makes many travelers unable to reach their destinations. ONE Washington Post The report on Tuesday detailed the human costs of these cancellations, with travelers sleeping on the airport floor or canceling trips altogether.
A deeper look at the data shows that cancellations have really increased in recent months, reaching a peak in January with more than 33,000 cancellations in a single month, more than double the corresponding figures from 201[ads1]9. As holiday travel heats up, many worried that this summer’s cancellation figures will be even higher.
The numbers are still well below the pandemic-driven peak in March and April 2020, which saw more than 100,000 cancellations per month. But while these cancellations were driven by quarantine rules and a broader drop in demand, the more recent problems are caused by a lack of supply.
Staffing is a particular problem, as airlines are struggling to replace the thousands of pilots who took acquisitions in 2020 when the industry responded to the pandemic. With these pilots out of the workforce, airlines have had trouble manning their aircraft – and have often had to cancel flights when they have not been able to arrange a crew. As the shortage increases, some industry analysts have suggested easing the requirements for pilot certification – including the rule that requires 1,500 hours of flight time before piloting a commercial aircraft.
Politicians have demanded fewer cancellations – often while invoking the generous terms of the industry’s $ 54 billion pandemic rescue package.
Wednesday, Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman urged the White House to fine the airlines $ 27,500 for each flight canceled due to known staff shortages. “The government has a responsibility to hold these airlines accountable,” Fetterman said in a statement. “The taxpayers saved them, and now it’s their turn to keep up with the end of the deal.”
When asked about Fetterman’s proposal, the Ministry of Transport pointed to its ongoing enforcement measures to ensure that the airlines comply with the reimbursement policy. “We share the expectation that when Americans buy a plane ticket, they will get where they need to go safely, reasonably and reliably,” said department spokesman Benjamin Halle. “We will continue to work with airlines to meet this expectation, but we will also not hesitate to use enforcement action to hold them accountable.”