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The Briefing: What’s Behind Shortages In Airline Staff?

With summer now in full swing, of Americans are bookingtheir seasonal breaks, many of which rely on the smooth-running of airlines.

In spite of this, airlines are experiencing severe shortages in staff, causing travel chaos around the country.

If you’re flying with American or Southwest Airlines this summer, it might be worth double checking your booking, as these airlines have suffered particular issues with lack of staffing.

What’s Caused These Shortages?

Industries across the country have struggled to hire employees following a period of lockdown, as the American economy starts to try and return to pre-pandemic levels. Airlines are no exception to this trend.

In a bid to save themselves from collapse, airlines furloughed employees in an attempt to cut costs at times where lapses in federal aid occurred. Some airlines even offered voluntary buyout and early retirement packages, as well as requesting workers to take voluntary unpaid or low-paid leave. American Airlines and United were particularly prolific in this regard, furloughing 32,000 workers between them.

American Airlines is now struggling to bring back workers it furloughed during the pandemic.

Pilots have also not been trained after thousands retired, took time off or were furloughed during quieter periods last year. They now need to be re-trained as per FAA guidelines.

Consequently, some airlines have struggled to bring staff members back to work and ensure they are all fully trained in time for the summer travel rush.

To add, exceptionally bad weather across the country has added to airlines’ struggles to raise staffing numbers. The weather has impacted flight crews’ ability to reach their assigned flights, with poor conditions also causing crews to fall outside of the hours they are federally allowed to work within, causing further disruption.

Subsequently, the Allied Pilots Association have advised airlines such as American to offer more overtime in advance to encourage staff to fill in, as well as more flexibility in pilots’ schedules to cover staffing shortages.

In a bid to prevent labor shortages, Delta have said that it will hire up to 5,000 workers this year to help reduce long hold times for customers who try and call the airline, as well as to deal with worker shortages on the ground, such as food caterers and airplane cleaners.

Some airlines are struggling to retrain pilots to meet the growing demand for travel

What Impact Have The Shortages Had?

As a result of labor shortages across the industry, American Airlines has cancelled hundreds of flights this month whilst they try and resolve the issue. In total about 6% of American Airline’s flights were cancelled on one Sunday in June alone. Almost half of these cancellations were due to unavailable flight crews.

Southwest last month also cancelled or delayed thousands of flights, the most of any airline, blaming both the weather and lack of staffing.

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