Traveling around the world has never been easier. Anyone has the chance to hop on a plane to a different state or out of the country. Of course, it is not that easy, but it is certainly possible for many. And yet, despite this, there has been an ongoing issue within the aviation industry that has threatened this reality. The mass cancellations and delays of flights. While it stems from the COVID-19 pandemic, this issue was recently sparked.
To understand how this issue has only begun now, we must examine the recent boom in travel. The holidays of this past week, Juneteenth and Father’s Day, have encouraged record amounts of travel. The Transportation Security Administration deemed it, and the days before it, the most popular air travel days in 2022. Close to 2,500,000 people were traveling at that time, catching airlines off guard.
Additionally, according to FlightAware between Friday and Sunday more than 3,200 flights got canceled. Not including the more than 9,000 delays. Those numbers are particularly alarming when considering the number of passengers per flight, and the resulting amount of lost time. And this is not because of a busy season and unexpecting companies. It is a symptom of a greater issue. One that started in the aviation industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After limited air travel during the pandemic, airline companies were reluctant to hire staff members to replace those who had retired. Some even went as far as convincing flight attendants and pilots to take voluntary leave. When such a busy season for travel hit, no one was ready for the stagnation that early decisions created. Without enough flight attendants, ground staff, TSA workers, and pilots, the entire system malfunctions.
All of these factors have led to the ongoing staff shortage. While airline companies scramble to keep up, the customers are hurting the most. Usually paying hundreds of dollars for a flight that is delayed by hours or is even canceled, with no repayment. This has resulted in unexpected transportation, hotel, and other fees. Ideally, airlines would be able to cover these costs. But with many, such as Delta or American Airlines, there aren’t a lot of protections for customers. In turn, this forces many of the burdens on the customers rather than the companies for their errors.
Even as airlines have begun to attempt to reverse the shortage, there is no expectation for this crisis to dwindle anytime soon. A few, such as American Airlines, have begun increasing salaries and funding programs for pilots. Still, the best thing to do for the future when traveling is to have backup plans in mind since a canceled or delayed flight is no longer unlikely. Also, keep an eye out for a hotel or two during layovers and get comfortable at airports.