Airport flight status board. (Photo via phive2015 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
The optimism and the enthusiasm for the return of airline travel faced the stark reality of pilot shortages, staffing shortages and bad weather as the unofficial start of summer kicked off.
While the number of passengers going through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints on Friday and Saturday still suggests a robust surge for the industry, it wasn’t a smooth – nor timely – ride for some fliers.
Passengers were greeted with delays and cancellations on Saturday as the perfect storm of staffing shortages, pilot shortages, subsequent trimming of schedules by carriers and bad weather led to numerous delays and cancellations.
According to the flight tracking service flightaware.com, more than 2,300 flights were canceled worldwide on Friday to kick off the long holiday.
On Saturday, 1,543 flights worldwide were canceled and 14,524 were delayed. In the United States alone, domestic carriers canceled 565 flights and delayed 5,156 on Saturday.
Delta Air Lines bore the brunt of the problems. On Saturday, Delta canceled 254 flights, or nine percent of its schedule, and had 525 delayed flights, or 19 percent of its schedule. Delta’s main hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta was the leading U.S. airport for delays and cancellations for both incoming and outgoing flights.
As of 10 a.m. this morning, Sunday, May 29, 251 flights into and out of the U.S. have been canceled and 715 were delayed. Again Delta has been hit the hardest, with 143 cancellations and 116 delays.
Earlier this week, Delta, like many airlines, announced it was “strategically” cutting back on its summer schedule.
“More than any time in our history, the various factors currently impacting our operation — weather and air traffic control, vendor staffing, increased COVID case rates contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups — are resulting in an operation that isn’t consistently up to the standards Delta has set for the industry in recent years,” Chief Customer Experience Officer Allison Ausband said.
Several airlines did face weather issues with bad thunderstorms in the southeast and northeast.