In recent days, thousands of flights were cancelled by airlines as the industry tried its best to get over its holiday hangover.
The United States continues to be disrupted by bad weather and coronavirus epidemics among workers. However, airlines have cancelled many recent flights in advance so that they can correct course at a slower time for travel and not surprise customers with last-minute cancellations.
According to FlightAware, a data tracker service, approximately 5,000 flights were cancelled between Friday and Sunday. The daily number of cancellations has been declining steadily over the period. Southwest Airlines suspended over 1000 flights, more than any other airline. SkyWest Airlines, which provides flights for several major airlines, and United Airlines each cancelled more than 500 flights.
The chaos began before Christmas due to bad weather in the West, staff shortages and virus outbreaks among employees. Through the first weekend in February, snowfall in the Northeast continued its destructive effects on major airport hubs across the nation.
“Given the ongoing surge in Covid cases and related sick calls, we’ve been working with each of our major partners to proactively reduce our January schedules,” SkyWest said in a statement. The airline operates flights for United, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines and said the pullback is intended to “ensure we’re able to adequately staff our remaining flying as we work to recover in the coming weeks.”
JetBlue Airways announced that it would cancel about 1,300 flights after cancelling flights at high rates during the holidays. Alaska said in a statement last week that it would slash about one in 10 flights planned for the month to gain “the flexibility and capacity needed to reset.”
Airlines are also dealing with high numbers of sick workers, just like other industries. The Omicron virus variant spreads at an astonishing rate.
“It has been one of the most difficult operational environments we’ve ever faced,” Allison Ausband, Delta’s chief customer experience officer, said in a statement last week apologizing to customers for the disorder.
Many airlines have begun offering extra pay to compensate for staff shortages. Southwest, for example, stated last week that it was offering double the pay for most of the month for employees who took on extra shifts. It also offered incentives to workers across its operations, including ground staff and flight attendants, customer service personnel, flight schedulers as well maintenance technicians.
The industry is currently preparing for a significant rebound this year, but the chaos comes at a difficult time. The hope that the pandemic will be under control by then will help to ensure that people are more willing and able to travel internationally for work and pleasure.
Source: NY Times