Why Some Airlines Are Cutting Their Schedules This Summer

In another tough blow to the airline industry, some carriers are being forced to cut their summer schedules by up to 10% in an effort to keep planes flying over the busy vacation period.


A lack of staff, due to covid-19 infections, had previously led to delays and cancelations. In order to to pre-empt these shortages, many airlines will be reducing their schedules in order to maintain their service throughout the next few months. Starting in May some carriers could be trimming their schedules anywhere between 2-10%.


The news comes after an industry-wide shortage of staff coincided with poor weather conditions to ground hundreds of flights over the weekend. JetBlue and Spirit were the worst hit by the disruptions, with JetBlue cancelling more than 330 flights and Spirit cancelling over 470 by Sunday. The impacts of Covid-19 are evidently still being felt as a report by McKinsey last month estimating the aviation industry as whole lost $230 billion during the first year of the pandemic, with airline companies being the hardest hit in the sector.


Despite attempts to hire more staff JetBlue have been forced to cut their summer capacity by as much as 10% in order to avoid flight disruptions. Due to a forecasted surge in customer numbers, owing to the global easing of restrictions, alongside staff shortages from covid, the company needs to restructure flight schedules in order to avoid disappointment over delays. After a disastrous season last summer, the company is desperately trying not to make the same mistakes.


In an email written by JetBlue COO, Joanna Geraghty, staff were told that capacity would be reduced by another 8-10%, despite it already being lowered by the same amount earlier this year. She also said that despite hiring 2500 new members of staff the company were still struggling to fill vacancies. Geraghty wrote, “Despite these challenges and, based on your feedback that the schedule is wound too tight, we know the best plan is to reduce capacity now.” Further stating, “I think everyone recognizes that the industry still remains very much in recovery mode, so we believe this proactive step is the right decision.”


Additionally, other US airlines have stated that they will be reducing their capacity. Alaska Air said that it would reduce its schedule capacity by 2% until the end of June in order to cope with staff shortages. They stated that shortages of pilots have led to more cancellations this month and therefore the change was necessary. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines are due to release more details of staff and capacity plans at the end of the week, following the publication of the company’s quarterly results. Other firms are set also to report on schedule changes later this month.


For airlines the restructuring of schedules is a short term option with many companies already pushing a huge recruitment drive. For example, Delta Airlines have been hiring more cabin crew and by summer this year are due to have 3,000 new flight attendants working with the company. The firm has also promised a 4% pay increase to staff which is bound to attract workers to the firm. Further, the $3.6 billion bid from JetBlue for Spirit airlines suggests another pathway to increasing staff numbers within the company. The restructuring of flight schedules may suggest a period of instability for airlines, however, plans are formulating now to suggest that the industry will be back on track in no time.

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