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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.

Boeing 737 Max Returns To US Skies With First Commercial Flights After Crashes

American Airlines announced last week that they were set to operate the first US commercial flight of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft’s since the two deadly crashes that occurred in 2019, prompting a worldwide grounding of all Boeing 737 Max’s in March of the same year. 

The flight at this point has already departed, and was scheduled as American Airlines Flight 718, which departed from Miami International Airport at 10:30 a.m. ET for New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Fort Worth is the Texas-based carrier of the aircraft’s that will be operating daily round-trip flights between Miami and New York, and then will begin increasing services to other cities in the coming weeks of the new year. 

United Airlines plans to begin flights using the 737 Max’s on February 11th out of its Denver and Houston hubs. Southwest Airlines agreed to begin flying the planes in the second quarter of 2021. Gol is a Brazilian carrier of strictly Boeing 737 Max planes that actually performed the first relaunch of the jets earlier this month. 

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The planes in general are much more fuel-efficient when compared to traditional commercial planes, which makes them central to a lot of airlines plans around the world. More than 3,000 of the jets are currently on order internationally. 

When all Boeing 737 Max jets were forced to ground in March of 2019, it was quickly recognized as the largest grounding in US history. The Federal Aviation Administration just recently cleared the 737 Max for commercial flight again after Boeing made several safety-related changes to the aircraft. 

Lion Air flight 610 in Indonesia in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia in March 2019 were the two flights that resulted in deadly crashes. Pilots on both flights claimed to have battled an automated flight-control system that was incorrectly activated somehow. All 346 individuals on both flights were killed.

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Changes made to the jets include “making the flight-control system less aggressive, providing more redundancy and implementing more robust pilot training that includes time in a flight simulator,” according to news reports. Investigations into both crashes found that there were a multitude of problems with each plane’s development, design, and certification by US regulators.

American Airlines and other carriers of the jets have said that if customers booked a flight on the 737 Max without knowing and didn’t feel comfortable flying on that model, they could switch their flight for free. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson spoke with the media last month, claiming he is “100% confident in the jets and a repeat of the scenarios that led to the two crashes is impossible.”

“In a way, the best thing for the 737 Max has been that it is has taken them 20 months to get the planes ready to going back into service and for almost a year we have had news of the coronavirus that has consumed more attention related to travel than the 737 Max,” said Henry Harteveldt, a former airline executive and president of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel consulting firm.

American Airlines has ordered 76 of the planes and originally had 24 in its fleet when the original grounding occurred in 2019, proving their confidence in the jets as well.

Delta Airline on Screen

Delta Among Airlines Adding Passengers Who Refuse To Wear Masks To No-Fly List

Travelling anywhere during the coronavirus pandemic poses a certain level of risk, but getting on a plane especially is cause for taking as many precautions as possible. Many airlines have begun implementing mandatory health and safety procedures such as social distancing markers within all airports, requiring facial coverings at all times, and removing middle seat options from being purchased.

For the most part, major airlines throughout the US are taking these procedures seriously and mandating them within all locations. Delta, specifically, wants their customers to understand how important these policies are, and have gone so far as to place people on the no-fly list for refusing to wear a mask while on board. 

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Delta CEO Ed Bastian recently spoke with the media about the company’s mask policy, claiming that while some consumers may think being added to the no-fly list is “excessive,” they believe health and safety is number one priority always. 

“We’ve been… steadily and rather aggressively stepping up our enforcement of the mask policy. If you board the plane and you insist on not wearing your mask, we will insist that you don’t fly Delta into the future.”

The airline has had this policy implemented since the beginning of this pandemic, however, they only recently began seriously enforcing it as a part of their “Clearance-to-Fly” program. This program requires all passengers who claim to have medical conditions that exempt them from wearing a mask to go through a lengthy process to get pre-approval, however, the airline more so suggests that if you are one of these individuals, to stay home and not get on any sort of plane. 

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Delta began blocking out middle seat ticket listings to restrict airplane capacity in May, and is planning on continuing this until at least the end of September, however, it’s more dependent on how much worse the pandemic gets within the next two months. Bastian claims that all planes are also consistently sanitized between flights and layovers. 

“I know there’s a lot of anxiety in the general public — and even for road warriors who have been out flying for years — their first time back, there’s a level of angst that they need almost be walked through the process.”

Bastian claims that while he’s ready for traditional airline travel to resume, he knows that a vaccine is the only thing that will make everyone feel comfortable getting on a plane again, as he feels the same way. “We need some medical confidence back in consumers and continue to restore confidence in air travel.”

Southwest Airlines is one of the more recent companies to require all passengers wear a mask with no exceptions; regardless of any medical conditions that may prevent someone from wearing one. They claim if you have an illness severe enough to hinder your ability to wear a mask, you shouldn’t be getting on a plane in the middle of a global health crisis in general. 

American and United airlines also claimed that they would temporarily ban passengers from flying on their planes if they refuse to wear a mask on board like Delta.