With the July 4th travel chaos looming, experts warn that a combination of factors, including a shortage of pilots, the climate crisis and even the rise of drones, means the situation is unlikely to improve soon.
During Memorial Day and the weekend in June, more than 3,000 flights were canceled and more than 19,000 delayed. About 1,800 flights have been canceled so far this week, according to hill.
Aviation industry expert Robert Mann said travelers expect more hardships this weekend – and more to come.
“It’s a complicated situation, and no one has clean hands except for customers who bought tickets thinking they were going on vacation or traveling for work,” Mann said.
Airlines received $54 billion in relief money during the pandemic and politicians including the Secretary of Transportation, Buttigieg’s houseSenator Bernie Sanders They wondered why they were poorly prepared for the post-pandemic travel boom. Sanders is demanding fines.
Despite promises to keep staff in exchange for bailouts, airlines have laid off thousands of workers and a shortage of pilots is often described as the main cause of recent cases.
There are structural and organizational reasons for this deficiency as well. Pilots are not being trained and certified at the numbers they once were, and many are approaching the mandatory retirement age, which has already been pushed from 60 to 65, a number that can now be pushed even higher. Another issue is that the military is not producing pilots in the numbers it did before, due in part to the increased use of drones and other strategic decisions.
Regulatory changes also played a role. after, after Colgan Air Flight 3407 It crashed over Buffalo in 2009, killing 49 people, and Congress raised the number of flying hours required for a pilot’s certification from 250 to 1,500, a move that was Criticized by some airline executives.
“The bottom line is that we’re not producing as many pilots as we did in the ’70s and ’80s when a lot of them were going out of service after Vietnam,” Mann said. “And how do you get to 1500 hours? Everyone is looking for a shortcut.”
The FAA’s restrictions on monthly flying hours are also likely to add to the shortfall. The holiday falls at the end of June, which means that many pilots may already have maximized their weekly or monthly quotas. Airlines issued invitations to volunteer pilots, and in some cases offered three paychecks.
Moreover, airlines that laid off pilots and staff during the pandemic, believing they could rehire new pilots for less when needed, have retired old aircraft, which has led to new training requirements for newer aircraft.
But training resources are also exhausted. “So you get rid of entire fleets, now whole crews have to be retrained,” Mann said. “One senior pilot has retired and you’re going to set up six or seven training events.”
The shortage of pilots compounds the airport’s staff shortage — whether ground crew, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff, or Starbucks staff. Every employee within the airport’s secure area must be certified, including TSA and customs and border officials – a process that can now take up to two months.
Delta pilots were arrested in Atlanta Thursday for demanding better working conditions, with many saying they were working overtime despite flights being canceled across the country. “As pilots, we’re so exhausted – they’re trying to get us to fly to the limit,” said Dennis Trader of the Allied Pilots Association.
The Airline Pilots Association (Alpa) recently published a file open letter To thousands of Delta passengers caught up in waves of delays and cancellations. “It is frustrating to see customers waiting in long lines to rebook flights due to scheduling issues that could have been prevented,” said Delta Alpa President, Captain Jason Ambrosi.
American Airlines pilots recently showed signs near the New York Stock Exchange that read: “Are you frustrated with AA? We are.” About 1,300 uniformed Southwest Airlines pilots carried signs at Dallas Love Field Airport protesting inadequate pay and poor working conditions.
Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), which represents more than 9,000 pilots, says his pilots have lost 20,000 vacation days due to schedule mismanagement over the past year and work has become “flight.”
But there are other problems, too.
Even after flights are canceled, booking a new flight can be stressful. Mobile apps struggle to process changes, and call centers are overwhelmed by choppy days, causing hours of downtime.
American Airlines suspension times in mid-June were the highest I’ve seen in the past several weeks and were caused by “spread weather and ATC [air-traffic control] Issues.”
These weather events tell another – troubling story. The climate crisis is increasing the intensity and frequency of severe weather. High air temperatures and dry conditions alter the maximum payload and runway lengths required for takeoff.
“We’re seeing more high-energy weather events that are unpredictable in unpredictable locations and last longer, so it’s hard to say they’re not having an impact,” Mann says.
Atlanta, America’s busiest airport, was closed for a full day last winter due to a lack of previously needed de-icing equipment. Extreme temperatures already Causing flight cancellations in the United States. “They have to wait until the sun goes down, the temperature drops, and they can take off,” Mann said.
Even at an airport like LaGuardia in New York, where departing flights typically do not travel more than 1,500 miles, the combination of runway length, payload and temperature can force airlines to offload passengers or baggage to reduce take-off weight.
“As temperatures rise, there will be more occasions, in more places, where certain flights will have to take payload restrictions or stop en route because they have had to reduce the amount of fuel,” Mann added.
So this weekend, if you’ve been sitting in the airport lounge for hours, or later in the summer when the turmoil intensifies, be careful not to think about the complications involved. “There’s a lot of issues coming together to create this and that’s just in the United States,” Mann said. “in Europe It’s worse.”
“Pop culture junkie. Tv aficionado. Alcohol ninja. Total beer geek. Professional twitter maven.”