The FlightAware tracking service showed around 2,000 flights to, from or within the US canceled between Thursday and Sunday, or 2% of scheduled flights. It was a peak of 657 departures on Saturday.
Bad weather once again played a role, but the lack of employees in the entire aviation industry also led to the problem. Airlines do not have the crew, especially among pilots, to adjust when bad weather causes delays.
But the good news is that FlightAware data on Monday afternoon showed that 219 flights were canceled, less than 1% of the daily schedule.
This is the third holiday weekend in a row where there has been an increase in canceled flights as the airlines are struggling to handle the demand for flights with limited crew. Approximately 3% of scheduled flights from Friday to Monday during the weekend Memorial Day were canceled, and approximately 4% of flights in the period Thursday to Monday around Father̵[ads1]7;s Day and the Juniteenth weekend.
Back in 2019, ahead of the pandemic, canceled flights usually did not top 1% of the schedule, even on holiday weekends. And when bad weather led to an increase in canceled flights, as it did on Saturday, July 6 of the same year, operations returned to normal much faster.
But it’s not just vacations that are causing problems. Cancellations on the weekend of July 4 were actually lower than last week, as daily cancellations ranged from 2.5% to 3.6% of the schedule.
Cancellations are becoming the norm due to the staffing situation, said Kathleen Bangs, a former flight pilot who now works for FlightAware.
“The weather has always affected aviation, but the weather so far this summer has not been worse than normal,” she said. “When we see bad weather, it takes longer for the airlines to move out and recover. They do not have the deep bench with pilots to call in. It actually seems to be more of a system-wide staffing problem, which is trickling down to the FAA . air traffic control system. “
Sara Nelson, international president, Association of Flight Attendants, said airlines are not doing enough to hire the extra staff they need. from frontline workers such as pilots, mechanics and flight attendants to support staff, including those in charge of scheduling.
“The crews are waiting for one, two, three, four hours to get in touch with a crew planner,” Nelson told CNN’s Christine Romans on Monday. She said this means that some crew members reach the end of the hours they are allowed to work without being put on a new plane.
“We are very frustrated with the airlines on back-end operational support during this time as well,” she said.
But she said some of the problems with delays and canceled flights are inevitable.
“I want to remind people that it’s not always the airline’s fault. So a little empathy with people on the front line. We’ll get you there safely,” she said.
Cancellation issues are not limited to US flights. FlightAware data showed that a total of almost 1,800 flights were canceled worldwide on Sunday alone, with more than 1,400 outside the United States.
Switzerland-based EasyJet announced on Monday that Peter Bellew had resigned as CEO of the discount company, following cancellations of flights, staff shortages and strikes.
But the problems are getting more attention in the United States, especially since US airlines received $ 54 billion in federal assistance to help them cope with the decline in traffic during the pandemic. The money was used to keep employees in place so that they would have enough workers when air traffic returned. However, almost all airlines used voluntary acquisitions and early retirement packages to continue to trim employees during the downturn, which led to staff shortages.
Senator Bernie Sanders quoted the government as helping airlines ask the Department of Transportation to impose heavy fines when flights are delayed or canceled – and asks for fines of $ 55,000 per passenger if airlines cancel flights they know may not be fully staffed.