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Flights Cancelled

Airlines Set To Cancel Thousands Of Flights Due To Staffing Shortage

Unless you happen to have a Boeing in your backyard and a pilot’s license in your pocket, you may be in trouble of missing out on a flight to your next vacation destination. Across the country, airlines are cutting thousands of flights ahead of the summer travel season due to pilot shortages.

No airline has suffered more than Southwest, which has cut around 20,000 flights from June to Labor Day. It’s also pushed up its yearly hiring goal by 2,000 to 10,000. Meanwhile, Delta Airlines stated it was cancelling 100 daily flights from July 1 to Aug. 7 in the U.S. and Latin America, with 517 total flights canceled in June and 700 cut over Memorial Day weekend.

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Similarly, American Airlines is also affected, with CEO Robert Isom confirming the airline had to ground 100 regional flights due to the shortage. “There is a supply and demand imbalance right now, and it really is within the regional carrier ranks,” Isom stated at an investor’s conference.

“We have probably a hundred aircraft — almost a hundred aircraft that aren’t, aren’t productive right now, that aren’t flying.”

Ironically, “reliability” was Isom’s biggest priority when he took the helm of American back on March 31. “People really need to feel like they have control of their itineraries and we give them control by making sure they get to where they want to go on time,” he said at the time. “I just can’t be any more blunt about it than that.”

The shortage has become so prevalent that some airlines are cutting down on the number of requirements potential pilots have to go through in order to fly. Delta previously announced in January it would end its requirement for pilots to have four-year degrees, while Republic Airways asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to hire pilots from its LIFT academy when they reach 750 flight hours instead of the required 1,500.

“Republic is not proposing overturning the 1500-hour rule or weakening safety; to the contrary, we are proposing a more intensive, mission-specific training pathway similar to what is permitted for military pilots under current law,” Republic CEO Bryan Bedford told Business Insider.

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Reports also suggested that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC.) could propose a legislation that would raise the retirement age for commercial airline pilots from 65 to 67, a fix that could help to maintain the current workforce number over the short-term, however low it may be.

It’s not just U.S. airlines that are suffering, either. Germany’s flag carrier, Lufthansa — the second-largest airliner in Europe — and its subsidiary Eurowings announced they were scrapping 1,000 flights in July, while airlines like Irish’s Ryanair, Switzerland’s easyJet, and Spain’s Volotea are seeing strikes.

It’s certainly a problem that doesn’t have an easy and quick solution, and one that might not be ending anytime soon. Back in March, Republic CFO Joseph Allman forecasted the shortage reaching its worst in the second and third quarters of 2023, expecting the industry to be short 8,000 pilots next year.

Unfortunately for travelers, turning to road trips instead of dealing with flight uncertainty may not be a slam dunk either after the national gas price rose above $5 on Thursday. In California, drivers are facing prices up to an agonizing $6.40 per gallon.

Airport TSA

TSA Warns Of Travel ‘Hiccups For Very, Very Busy Summer’

David Pekoske, the nation’s TSA chief, and airport and airline leaders throughout the nation have stated that there will be inevitable “hiccups” this summer, as the agency is expecting the largest airport passenger crowds since the Covid-19 pandemic first began. 

Pkoske said that labor shortages and an increased demand for travel have already begun to overwhelm airlines. The agency is gearing up to deploy as many as 1,000 TSA agents and K-9 units to the nation’s busiest airports to ideally counter any potential delays at security checkpoints. 

“We expect the summer to be very, very busy. That’s not to say that there will not be some hiccups along the way — those things will happen, but we’ll do everything we can to recover quickly.”

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Some expect airport crowds surpass 3 million passengers per day on the busiest travel days for the summer. The increased demand for travel has also led to pilots complaining about fatigue and flight cancellations heading into the summer at airlines including American Airlines, Southwest, Alaska, and Delta. 

 “Everybody is facing labor shortages; airlines and TSA are no different. At just about every level you can think of in the airline industry we can speak of we’re having labor shortages,” said Paul Doell, vice president for the National Air Carrier Association.

Airline restaurants and car rental companies have also been dealing with labor shortages. Customer service call centers for airlines and passengers who need wheelchair assistance, as well as ground airport employers, have also been struggling to maintain a steady supply of workers to deal with the demand for flights. 

Airlines themselves are cutting thousands of flights from their schedules as a means of helping scheduled flights run on time. This also means that TSA agents and other airline workers will likely have to work harder to get travelers to their flights on time.

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“But regional air carriers, which fly about 43% of all scheduled flights in the U.S., say they are facing labor shortages as employees such as pilots are being poached by the larger airlines. That could create issues connecting smaller destinations to larger hub airports,” said Kevin Burke, head of Airports Council International-North America.

“The pilot shortage is impacting the regionals, and we expect to see the small communities hit the hardest. We expect this to continue to be a trend, but those pain points will assert themselves at hubs as well.”

Pekoske warned that “many travelers this summer could be getting on a plane for the first time in three years, especially as masking and Covid-19 restrictions have fallen in many parts of the country and international travel restrictions are being lifted.”

“The amount of people that worked concessions prior to the pandemic are not there now, they’ve come back, but they’re nowhere near where they need to be,” Burke explained. 

“So we really ask that we try to have patience and understanding when they are dealing with employees at the airport. Everybody’s trying to do the best job they can to make sure this is safe, secure and also as comfortable as it can be under normal circumstances but especially when you have those tough days where you have storms that are disrupting the system,” Doell said. 

With A Colorful New Look And Identity, Condor Airlines Reopens Routes To U.S.

Condor Airlines, which have caught the attention of the travel world due to it’s colorful rebranding, has announced the restoration of non-stop routes from the U.S., marking the first time this has happened since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Airline Violence Rages On As The Work Environment For Flight Attendants Is Deemed “Hostile”

As more and more passengers are returning to the skies following the pandemic, airlines are seeing a worrisome rise in violence – so much so that International President of Flight Attendants Sarah Nelson stated flight attendants are now having to serve in a “hostile work environment.”

Speaking to The Washington Post, Nelson explained that they’re on track to have had more incidents of disruptive passengers than in the “entire history” of aviation, and flight attendants unfortunately take the brunt of that anger. Additionally, Nelson said that 61% of incidents include homophobic, racial, and gender slurs.

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Data released by the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) shows that in 2021, 5,114 disruptive passenger incidents have occurred – which is 5.6 incidents per 10,000 flights. The FAA has levied around $225,287 in total fines against passengers who committed assaults, and over $1 million against passengers that engaged in unruly behavior.

The rise is more than evident. The total unruly passengers investigations initiated in 2021 is at 973. That’s up from 183 in 2020 and the highest since 2004, which had 310. Speaking to Fox Business, Nelson stated the disruptions are being felt across the industry, and are not limited to just one company.

“It doesn’t matter airline you fly for. When flight attendants see another flight attendant getting punched in the face, bloodied, abused, we all feel it.”

The mental state of attendants has taken a big hit. One employee told CCN Travel they’re exhausted both physically and emotionally.

On Nov. 13, a Texas passenger assaulted a Southwest Airlines employee by punching them in the head following a “verbal altercation” during boarding. The passenger was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, while the attendant was hospitalized. A similar incident occurred with a Californian passenger on an American Airlines flight two weeks ago.

COVID-19 can be blamed for some of the uptick in violence. Of the 5,114 total incidents, 3,710 of them — around 72.5% — involved passengers refusing to follow mask mandates, which calls for masks to be worn throughout the entire duration of a flight.

In response to these altercations, airlines have taken a number of measures. Forbes notes some have prohibited alcohol on flights and alerting authorities. On Jan. 13, the FAA signed an order — the “Zero Tolerance Policy” – forcing stricter legal enforcement on misbehaving passengers.

Transportation Secretary Peter Buttigieg has suggested that a federal no-fly list for violent passengers “should be on the table.” “It is completely unacceptable to mistreat, abuse, or even disrespect flight crews,” Buttigieg said. “There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of treatment of flight crews in the air, or any of the essential workers from bus drivers to air crews who get people where they need to be.”

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Airlines and their employees still have the holiday season to get through. According to AAA, air travel is expected to be up 80% from last year, which is just below 9% from 2019 levels. 53.4 million Americans are expected to travel either by land, sea, or air. Holiday travel is typically followed by delays or cancellations of flights, which could be a poor mixed with the all-time high tensions.

Some flight attendants have considered quitting due to the abuses, which has led Southwest to offer perks — such as travel rewards — to attendants in order to avoid staff shortages during the busiest travel time of the year.

Demand For Air Travel Dropping Exponentially As Delta Variant Continues To Spread 

The demand for air travel has begun to plummet as the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus continues to spread rapidly. According to reports from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), cancellations have been on the rise this month alongside less passenger loads and lower air fares. 

TSA reported that 1.7 million people were screened nationwide this Tuesday, the lowest number of air travelers in nearly two months. Southwest Airlines also claimed to see an uptick in cancellations according to their recent financial filings. 

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Southwest is predicting that the surge in cancellations will continue into September should the US not get the virus and its variants more under control. Many major US airlines were looking forward to the coming months due to an overall decrease in cases and spreading of the virus, but the delta variant has them all taking on a new attitude. 

Travel booking site Hopper claimed that the domestic demand for travel hasn’t been this low since after the fourth of July. 

“What we saw was that mid-July was one of our best booking weeks ever, so the domestic bookings were really strong in mid July, but on the domestic front we have seen bookings be pretty flat since then,” Hopper economist Adit Damodarn said.

Damodarn explained how international bookings have been hit even harder due to the increase in spreading and lack of proper vaccine rollout in many international countries. 

“I think there’s a lot going on here that’s making people think twice about traveling. One of the big concerns for people going internationally is the chances of even if you’re vaccinated or getting an infection seem to be going up.”

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“It may not be severe, but it does mean that you might not be able to come back into the U.S. for some time just because of the testing requirement. So with that I think you’re scaring some people off. And then, of course, we have the just general concern about getting sick, going to places where there is more virus,” Founder of crankyflier.com Brett Snyder said. 

Hopper also noted that more fliers have been purchasing “cancel-for-any-reason” flight insurance since the variant began spreading more rapidly in July. 

“The rate in which people are purchasing flight insurance is up about 33% when compared to last month. So I think what we’re seeing here is a little bit of hesitancy.”

Average air booking prices are currently down $76 on average as well. 

“We’re seeing a significant drop in domestic and international airfare. It’s a little bit more than the seasonality that we have seen in prior years, and so that would suggest to us that there’s both the seasonal variation coming off the peak summer travel season, as well as the impact of the delta variant,” Damodarn said.

American Airlines

United Airlines Now Requiring All US Employees To Get Covid-19 Vaccinations 

United Airlines will now require all of its 67,000 US employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by October 25th or they will risk termination. This is a first for major US travel agencies that will likely ramp up the pressure for rival services. 

Airlines have mainly been offering incentives for vaccinated employees, like extra pay or time off for being inoculated. Delta Air Lines in May started requiring all new employees show proof of vaccination in order to get hired and United followed suit in June. 

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United’s requirements mark the strictest mandate implemented by a travel service in the US so far. Other companies like Facebook and Walmart have announced that they are requiring all corporate employees to show proof of vaccination before returning to the office. 

 United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart sent out a note to all employees this Friday detailing why this requirement is so important for the future of the company and air travel in general. 

“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees. But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”

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The note detailed that United Airlines employees must upload proof that they received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single dose five weeks after federal officials give them approval, or by October 25th, whichever comes first. 

The mandate will not apply to regional airlines that fly shorter express flights for United. 

About 90% of all pilots and 80% of all flight attendants working for United Airlines claim to already be fully vaccinated, according to company officials. So the mandate is more so for employees working on the ground in the airports who see tens of thousands of flyers every day. 

About 60% of all American Airlines pilots are also vaccinated, according to a letter from the company’s union, the Allied Pilots Association, which has been working to get more employees vaccinated. 

The rise in Covid-19 cases last fall combined with the new highly-contagious Delta variant is motivating travel employees to create new ways to protect themselves from future travel. Time will tell what other agencies will follow United’s lead in terms of vaccination requirements.

US Airline Companies Want Government Leaders To Lift Covid-19 Travel Restrictions 

Major airline companies are urging the United States government to move quicker when it comes to lifting travel restrictions between the US and Europe. Many countries within the European Union have opened up their borders for international travel, causing many US airline leaders to urge our nation to do the same. 

This week, the heads of several major airline companies held a virtual news conference to discuss the easiest way to ease and fully remove travel restrictions, specifically between the United States and United Kingdom, where Covid-19 has been prominent. 

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The call included chief executives of Heathrow Airport, group leaders in the US Travel Association, as well as the CEOs of American Airlines, IAG unit British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and JetBlue. 

The US has barred nearly all non-US citizens who have been to the UK from coming back to the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Airline officials have claims that no change is expected to occur, so they’re taking matters into their own hands by calling on government leaders. 

This past Friday France announced, however, that vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to the country starting June 9th. American Airlines President Robert Isom said: 

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“We know there is tremendous pent-up demand for service. We have a lot of capacity to be ready to go for European travel, so we’re going to take it whenever it comes.”

Many airline officials believed that May 2021 was going to be the month in which international travel would really be able to resume with many individuals getting vaccinated, however, the government has yet to make any major changes to the current restrictions and requirements. 

The White House is mainly focused on bringing US vaccination rates to where President Joe Biden initially planned for it to be by the 4th of July; 70% of Americans having at least one vaccine. Additionally, the Biden administration is focusing on getting younger Americans vaccinated, as adolescents currently account for 25% of all Covid-19 cases in America. 

“We certainly understand the desire of many Europeans to come to travel the United States and vice versa. We can’t respond to public pressure or even emotion. We have to rely on the guidance of our health and medical experts,”  White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

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Airline CEOs Urging Governments To Open Travel Between US And UK

Several large airlines based in the United States and United Kingdom have called upon their government leaders in an attempt to revive air travel between the two countries. Airline leaders are asking for an international summit to discuss the issue and lay out a possible plan for bringing back travel between the two nations. 

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his UK counterpart Grant Shapps received the letter which was signed by the CEOs of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and JetBlue Airways.

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“Public health must guide the reopening of international air travel and we are confident that the aviation industry possesses the right tools, based on data and science, to enable a safe and meaningful restart to transatlantic travel.” 

JetBlue and US industry group Airlines for America have stated previously that they both have plans to revive travel between the US and UK this summer. 

“US and UK citizens would benefit from the significant testing capability and the successful trial of digital applications to verify health credentials.” 

The executives discussed in the letter how an increase in vaccinations between both countries, as well as advanced testing efforts now being implemented in international airlines, should give travelers the confidence that they’ll be safe from infection. 

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Both nation’s airlines also discussed the economic recovery efforts that they’re enduring, as the travel industry took one of the biggest hits as a result of the pandemic. The US is the nation that currently bars the most non-US citizens from entering into the country due to Covid-19 safety concerns. 

“Just last week, Secretary Buttigieg and G7 Transport Ministers met to discuss the complexities around reopening international travel and how to do so safely.” the U.S. Transportation Department said in a statement. 

“These conversations are ongoing. The Department will be reviewing the letter with other agencies as part of the whole of the government approach to COVID recovery.”

The UK’s Department for Transport didn’t immediately respond to the letter, however, it’s expected that the two nations will be in talks in the coming months on how to best reopen travel. 

Delta Airplane

Delta And United Airlines Will Permanently Remove International Change Fees 

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the travel industry in the US in more ways than one. Many major airline companies have begun implementing new policies to help cushion the economic blow that the tourism sector has suffered from within the past ten months of the pandemic. Most recently, Delta and United airlines have announced that they will be permanently eliminating change fees for flights across the globe. 

Throughout the entire pandemic airlines throughout the world and nation have recognized that there would be a major decline in travel, so they began eliminating fees that are typically charged to travelers who change their international flights or cancel them all together. Initially this was just a temporary move so that travelers wouldn’t have to worry about paying more money in the middle of a global health and economic crisis, however, Delta and United realized the elimination of these fees is actually a great thing for consumers and the airlines all together. 

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For Delta specifically, the airline will waive its $200 international change fee for any flight that “originates in the US or between the US, Mexico and the Caribbean going forward, including code-share flights,” according to the company’s announcement. Basic economic fares are excluded and according to Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian this elimination has proven to be extremely valuable.

“Our approach has always been to put people first, which is why we’re extending our current change fee waiver and making lasting changes to our practices, so customers have the trust and confidence they need long after the pandemic ends.”  

Delta is going to continue to charge $75 for same-day standby, but the airline is extending its Covid-19 policy waivers which removes change fees for all domestic and international tickets purchased through March 30th of this year. 

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United Airlines also recently announced that they would be eliminating change fees for international flights moving forward. For domestic flights, change fees will also be eliminated but only for flights booked before or on March 31st of this year. The airline wrote a statement in which they claimed that the decision was “made recognizing that flexibility is more important to our customers than ever.” 

United initially implemented the no-change fee policy back in August for all domestic flights which inspired a slew of other airlines in America to waive their flight change fees as well. American Airlines became the first US airline to get rid of change fees completely for all flights from North or South America and the airline has also eliminated their fee for domestic same-day standby.

American Airlines Chief Revenue Officer, Vasu Raja, recently released a statement regarding the choice, stating that the company is “committed to making travel easier for customers who fly on American.” 

It’s expected that other modes of transportation that make up the tourism sector for the US’s economy will also begin to implement policies and waivers of fees like these airlines at least in the beginning of the post-pandemic reopening of the country as a means of rebuilding what was lost within the past ten months.

Covid-19 Immunity Passport

Covid-19 Passports May Be Key For Traveling In A Post-Pandemic World

Now that a multitude of companies are gearing up to distribute their Covid-19 vaccines in 2021, a lot of questions are being raised in regards to how we will navigate in a world during that transitional period where everyone’s waiting to be vaccinated.