When Will Air Travel Get Back To Normal?

Following what was one of the busiest travel weekends of the year it is clear that for many passengers their travel may have been far from smooth sailing. But with airlines already stretched at the minute is it better that they at least tried or should the industry hold back?

Either option is not ideal for many. The almost constant delays may seem never-ending but already we are seeing airlines recover from this weekend, maybe offering a glimpse at what could be “normal air travel.”

Independence Day weekend saw a wave of mass cancellations with over 16,500 flights departing from or arriving within the US being delayed. Between Friday and Sunday, 1,250 flights were also cancelled, suggesting the airline industry had bitten off more than it could chew.

However, despite this initial problem, FlightAware has shown that Airlines are already getting back on track with far fewer cancellations already this week. For example, American Airlines was forced to cancel 250 flights over the weekend but this number had already fallen to 42 by the end of Monday.

The chaos this weekend was mainly attributed to poor weather and scheduling issues. American Airlines also saw delays due to a technical failure (see previous post, American Airlines Scheduling Glitch- What Happened?). The issue of staffing is proving to be a genuine issue surrounding air travel at the moment but airlines are taking steps to employ more staff to ensure that future delays are minimised. For example, Delta airlines have been recruiting more cabin crew staff and pilots, which will reduce pressure on current flight crew.

However, much of the issues surrounding staffing this weekend have not been due to a lack of aeroplane staff but actually a limited number of air traffic controllers. The Federal Aviation Administration outlined that the organisation “does not have a system-wide air traffic controller shortage” but last weekend had seen more controllers placed in Florida to help deal with increased demand there. This suggests that the issue was an isolated event from last weekend and will hopefully mean that air traffic control will be back to normal soon.

This week President Biden announced that Phil Washington would take the lead role at the Federal Aviation Administration following the stepping down of Steve Dickson in March. Mr Washington may have his work cut out for him as he steps into a role which is seeing challenges, such as the Boeing review and the rollout of 5G are among just some of those issues facing the aviation agency. However, we are sure that he can offer a breath of fresh air to the industry, putting his years of experience to good use.

Despite these issues, some airlines have proved that they can bend when pressure piles on top. For example, Delta has already amended its schedules to give itself room to recover. Additionally, the company offered travellers the chance to amend their flights from the July 1-4 weekend if they can fly through July 8 without a change in fare price.

Normality is near, but for now, passengers should remain patient with airlines and see that they are doing all they can in these difficult times.


Photo: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

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