Why do airlines cancel so many flights?

Why do airlines cancel so many flights?

Why do airlines cancel so many flights?

Airlines canceled nearly 1,200 U.S. flights on Sunday and Monday, leaving passengers stranded and baggage piled up at airports across the country. Thousands of trips have been canceled around the world as the summer travel season kicks off.

Now for the bad news: airline analysts say delays and cancellations are likely to persist and could even get worse.

“We may not have seen the worst of this yet,” Kit Darby, founder of Kit Darby Aviation Consulting, told CBS MoneyWatch.

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Darby expects that ongoing shortages of pilots and flight crews, as well as aircraft, will continue to cause backups, especially as we approach the end of the month and pilots reach the maximum number of hours they are legally allowed to fly. “Towards the end of the month, and as we move into the next month, it’s the worst. July 4th isn’t looking good.”

Aviation operations are notoriously fragile and vulnerable to disruption when there is any kind of additional pressure on their services. With airline staff stretched thin, even a little bad weather can lead to mounting delays and cancellations.

“Right now, when you have normal things like aircraft maintenance or weather, delays are felt much more severely. There are no reserved extra pilots, planes, flight attendants — and the chain is only good as the weakest link,” Darby said.

Many of these problems stem from airlines cutting staff early in the pandemic, when air traffic plummeted. Since then, demand has fallen faster than airlines have been able to hire.

“The biggest problem is that they don’t have the capacity. They haven’t been able to bring back full capacity in terms of pilots, TSA checkpoints, airport vendors, baggage handlers, ground staff or flight attendants,” the New York Times said. York Times. editor Amy Virshup told CBS News. “So they’re really struggling to ramp up their workforce again in the face of demand growing faster than expected.”


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CBS News senior travel advisor Peter Greenberg said airlines should start staffing staff in all departments to avoid more cancellations.

“You can hire so many customer service reps. You want to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ but if you don’t fix the root problems, the excuses remain,” he told CBS News’ Elise Preston. “You have to be able to find pilots. There is a shortage. You have to be able to find people who work under the wings – ground handlers, baggage loaders.”

Cruising for pilots

Unfortunately there are no quick fixes. Darby pins the problem mainly on a shortage of pilots, which could take years to resolve. Airlines are on track to hire about 12,000 pilots this year, according to his count.

“Finding and training pilots is a four-year ordeal,” he said, pointing out that it can take pilots years to gain experience before they are qualified to work. “This is a long-term problem with no likely short-term solutions.”

“If you offer more money, it doesn’t immediately create more pilots. It may attract people to the career in the future, but at the moment it only moves pilots if one company pays more than another,” Darby added.

Extending the retirement age for pilots from 65 to 67 would help increase the number of potential candidates for the cockpit.

Allowing new pilots to do some of their required 1,500 hours of training in flight simulators rather than actual aircraft would also help expand the pipeline of commercial pilots.

“Pilots take longer to train and are the biggest part of the problem,” Darby said.