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.

Delta Airplane

Delta Planning To Furlough Nearly 2,000 Pilots In The Coming Months 

Delta Air Lines is currently projected to furlough 1,941 pilots by October 1st due an over-staffing problem amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision is basically official, as the airline sent a memo to all employees this past Monday claiming the only way the furlough’s won’t be happening is if some sort of deal can be reached with their union. 

Delta currently has around 11,200 active pilots working for them. By next summer the company is projecting they’ll only need about 9,450 for next summer based on travel data that’s been collected throughout the past six months during the pandemic. Senior Vice President of flight operations, John Laughter, wrote the memo to pilots where he broke the news. 

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Next summer we expect to see the peak flying for the next 12-18 months. We are simply overstaffed and we are faced with an incredibly difficult decision.” 

Airlines, and the travel industry in general, has been hit especially hard during the coronavirus pandemic, which makes sense considering the main way individuals can avoid potential infection is by staying home and not travelling at all, especially if it means travelling with a big group in an enclosed space. 

Delta received over $5.4 billion from the CARES Act in order to maintain proper payroll for their employees. The financial aid also came with a promise from the company that they would avoid furloughing employees until at least October 1st, and now that the date is approaching and the pandemic has only worsened in America, they realized that they would need to follow through. 

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20% of Delta’s workforce – around 17,000 employees – took the company up on a voluntary buyout package as the October date got closer and closer. It’s currently projected that all airline companies in America will likely come out of this pandemic much smaller than they were in the beginning of it, Delta included. 

These projections have caused airline executives to urge their employees to take the voluntary buyouts or a voluntary unpaid leave of absence until the future became more clear. 1,806 Delta pilots took early retirement packages, however, Laughter claims that still isn’t enough to avoid the furloughs. He claims that Delta is currently earning about 1/4th of the revenue they made this time last year.

Pilots that were hired after July 17th, 2017 are the most at risk for being furloughed due to contractual obligations between Delta and its more established pilots. While the pandemic isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, Laughter claims that the airline does have the full intention of bringing back all furloughed employees when things return to normalcy. 

“Though we expect a multi-year recovery, we will work diligently to bring you back to Delta as soon as we can, if demand recovers better than we are anticipating.”

The memo added that if the airline and the pilot’s union can reach an agreement that allows Delta to reduce costs, furloughing may be avoided. It can also be avoided if the CARES Act extends their payroll support program.