Tracking service FlightAware shows about 2,000 flights to, from or within the United States were canceled between Thursday and Sunday, or 2% of scheduled flights. There was a peak of 657 flights canceled on Saturday.
Bad weather is once again playing an important role, but staff shortages across the airline industry are also causing the problem. Airlines don’t have the staff, especially pilots, to adjust when bad weather causes delays.
But the good news is that FlightAware data Monday afternoon showed 219 canceled flights, 1% less than the daily schedule.
It was the third holiday weekend in a row in which flight cancellations spiked as airlines struggled to handle demand with limited crews. About 3% of scheduled flights from Friday despite Memorial Day Monday weekend were cancelled, and about 4% of flights between Thursday and Monday around Father’s Day and the end of the week. week of June 16.
Back in 2019, before the pandemic, canceled flights were often not within 1% of the schedule, even during weekends. And when bad weather caused flight cancellations to spike, as happened on Saturday, July 6 of that year, operations returned to normal much more quickly.
But it’s not just the holidays that cause problems. Cancellations over the weekend of July 4 actually fell from the previous week, when daily cancellations ranged from 2.5% to 3.6% of schedule.
Kathleen Bangs, a former airline pilot now working for FlightAware, said flight cancellations are becoming the norm because of the staffing situation.
“Weather always affects aviation, but the weather so far this summer has been no worse than usual,” she said. “When we see severe weather, it’s going to take longer for airlines to scramble and recover. They don’t have benches to call in. It’s really a system-wide staffing problem. , leaving the FAA down in terms of air traffic control systems.”
Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants, says airlines are doing enough to hire the extra staff they need, from frontline personnel such as pilots, mechanics and flight attendants to support staff, including those who handle schedules.
“Crews are waiting one, two, three, four hours to contact the crew scheduler,” Nelson told CNN’s Christine Romans on Monday. That means some crew members, she said, are allowed to work until the end of their hours without being put on another flight.
“We are very disappointed with the airlines in terms of supporting back-end operations during this time,” she said.
However, she said some problems with flight delays and cancellations are inevitable.
“I want to remind everyone, it’s not always the fault of the airlines. So have a little empathy for those on the front lines. We’ll get you there safely,” she said.
Cancellation issues are not limited to US flights. FlightAware data shows that there were a total of nearly 1,800 flights canceled worldwide on Sunday alone, with more than 1,400 flights occurring outside the United States.
Switzerland-based airline EasyJet announced Monday that Peter Bellew has stepped down as chief executive of the discount airline, following flight cancellations, staff shortages and strikes.
But problems are getting more attention in the United States, especially as US airlines receive $54 billion in federal assistance to help them weather the drop in traffic during the pandemic. This money is used to keep staff on site so they have enough workers when air traffic resumes. But nearly all airlines use voluntary buyouts and early retirement packages to cut staff during a recession, leading to staff shortages.
Senator Bernie Sanders cites the government’s help to airlines as calling for the Department of Transportation to impose hefty fines when flights are delayed or canceled – demanding a $55,000 per passenger fine if the flights are delayed. the airline cancels a flight that it knows cannot be fully staffed.