Right before the Memorial Day holiday — the start of the busiest US travel season — we outlined major airlines were axing flights from their schedules. Now carriers are at it again, with American Airlines saying it’ll eliminate service to three cities (Islip and Ithaca, New York, and Toledo, Ohio) after the Labor Day holiday weekend due to staffing shortages.
“We’re extremely grateful for the care and service our team members provided to our customers in Islip, Ithaca, and Toledo, and are working closely with them during this time,” American Airlines said in a statement to Fox Business.
The airline blamed the “difficult” decision to slash service because of a shortage of pilots that has plagued the industry at a time when travel demand is robust.
We recently noted Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines removed flights to minimize disruptions and bounce back faster when challenges arise, though, as of last weekend, more than 10,000 flights were canceled due to staffing woes, and airlines were paralyzed to resolve issues that left some travelers stuck at airports for more than 24 hours.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby warned last month that the “pilot shortage for the industry is real” and said airlines are short more than 12,000 pilots. He said training new pilots take years, and “there’s no quick fix.”
Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned airlines that the federal government might take action if disruptions continue:
“That is happening to a lot of people, and that is exactly why we are paying close attention here to what can be done and how to make sure that the airlines are delivering,” Buttigieg said on Saturday.
TSA checkpoint data traveler throughput shows no signs of demand destruction, meaning travel chaos because of pilot shortages could be a weekly occurrence this summer.
All this comes as ticket prices are sky-high, and reduced flights make it harder and harder to catch flights to small metro areas. And forget traveling by car. The national average for regular gas is still priced at around $5 a gallon.
What a mess…
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