The airline industry is struggling to meet busy summer travel demand amidst worker shortages.
With the pandemic effectively shutting down the airline industry, many pilots filed for early retirement or took extended leaves of absence. Thanks to the decimation of air travel during the pandemic, airlines received generous bailouts totaling billions of dollars to stay afloat. Despite those federal dollars, airlines across the country are floundering as air travel picks back up. Desperate attempts to attract more pilots or coax current pilots into working more hours have come from airlines across the industry.
American Airlines offers triple pay for regional pilots willing to pick up extra hours. Business Insider reports that Republic Airways, a regional carrier that operates Delta, American, and United flights is attempting to change regulations so that new pilots are available sooner:
In April, the airline asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to hire pilots out of its training academy when they reach 750 flight hours instead of the 1,500 hours currently required for most pilots.
On top of a severe lack of qualified pilots and personnel, airline fares have jumped 37.8% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But price hikes aren’t stopping Americans from booking trips. CNBC reports that a recent Bank of America Institute survey indicated that spending at airlines and travel agencies “is up a whopping 60% year-over-year.”
Efforts to get the crisis under control have done little to appease the difficult situation. In an attempt to appease frustrated customers, Delta pilots wrote an open letter addressing the disastrous circumstances in which they are working:
We are disheartened when we witness the impact of your disrupted travel plans. As you travel with us this summer and beyond, we ask you to please remember the following:
Delta pilots will continue to prioritize safety—every day and on every flight.
We have been working on our days off, flying a record amount of overtime to help you get to your destination. At the current rate, by this fall, our pilots will have flown more overtime in 2022 than in the entirety of 2018 and 2019 combined, our busiest years to date.
We empathize and share in your frustration over the delays, cancellations, and disrupted travel plans you’ve experienced. We agree—it is unacceptable.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttegieg’s feeble efforts to use his power to pressure the airline industry has done little to ease the cancellation either. He has been meeting virtually with airline executives pressuring them to hire new personnel and plan according to only the number of flights they will realistically be able to operate.
Summer travelers should be aware of the major risks associated with booking flights during this chaotic time. Even with the billions in money from the COVID-era emergency relief packages, airlines today have found themselves scrambling without adequate personnel and protocol, making them incapable of following through on promises. Even if they take the necessary steps to boost their staffing and regulate their flight offerings, it will certainly take some time before travelers can be fully confident in the industry as a whole again.