Airlines are cutting back on the number of flights, and passengers are the ones feeling the impact.
Call it the summer of flight delays and cancellations. Several factors are complicating air travel across the country and around the world.
“We recently flew to Costa Rica from Salt Lake City, and it was very bad,” said Alexis Shunway.
She landed in San Luis Obispo without delay, but it was a different story on a recent trip to South America.
“When we got to the airport in Salt Lake our flight was canceled and then we had to buy another flight through another airline,” she said. “When we were finally coming back we had a layover and we almost didn’t make our flight.”
So, what’s driving chaos at airports that just isn’t letting up?
“One of the reasons it’s gotten so chaotic this summer is that the airlines are trying to fly 2019 schedules with 2022 staffing,” said Kathleen Bangs, communications strategist for FlightAware.
Carriers are now cutting back on the number of flights as airports and airlines rush to hire workers at pre-pandemic levels.
“A lot of these jobs, especially baggage handlers, fuelers, cleaners--these used to be people that were employed by the airline, and it was a good job. You got great healthcare, you got travel benefits, and there were enough seats still open that you could travel,” said Bangs.
She adds that many jobs that kept the planes going were outsourced to third-party vendors. Because the contracts tend to go to the lowest bidder-- some turned into positions with lower pay, fewer benefits, and at times, required employees to work in harsh weather environments.
Many pilots also went into early retirement during the pandemic, leading to a major shortage as travel rebounded. Other jobs involve background checks and security clearance which the TSA is struggling to process.
Airlines are also using bigger planes that carry more passengers. Those planes are usually full, making it much more difficult to re-book a connecting flight.
“When you book a flight, a lot of times they’ll let you book a connecting flight that’s within about 40 or 45 minutes,” said Bangs. “What this means if for people that are getting delayed, whereas in the past, there was still multiple other flights that day -those flights might still be going, but the seats are totally booked.”
Nationwide, delays are up to an average of 52 minutes. It’s a problem not seen at the SLO airport on Saturday.
“It was good, no holdups at the airport or anything so went smooth,” said Tryston Peery.
Travel was running smoothly as people came to enjoy our beautiful weather.
“In Utah, it’s very dry and very hot--it’s like 100 degrees right now,” added Peery.
Summer air travel is around 8% lower than they were before the pandemic.
Airlines had hoped they'd have more employees now than they do.