America’s travel chaos continued into a second straight week on Thursday as nearly 700 flights were already canceled throughout the United States by mid-day and United Airlines officials announced they would be cutting their service even further amid ongoing pilot shortages.
According to flight tracker Flight Aware, the United States saw 691 flights canceled by 12.45 Thursday and over 1,900 flights delayed coming into, leaving or entering the country.
Those traveling on American Airlines seemed to be affected the worst, with the airline canceling four percent of its flights and delaying eight percent, while JetBlue canceled three percent of its fleet – but delayed 14 percent.
United Airlines has also already canceled three percent of its scheduled flights and delayed another six percent, while Delta canceled just one percent of its flights and delayed seven percent.
And major cities seem to once again be faring the worst.
New York City-area Newark Liberty International Airport saw 10 percent of its outgoing flights canceled Thursday morning, with nine percent delayed, and nearby John F Kennedy International Airport reported that three percent of its flights were canceled and 10 percent were delayed.
LaGuardia Airport, the smaller airport in the New York City area, also had eight percent cancelations and nine percent delays.
Meanwhile in Washington D.C., Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport canceled 12 percent of its outgoing flights and 11 percent were delayed, and in Boston, four percent of flights were canceled Thursday morning and nine percent were delayed.
It now seems that the situation is only going to get worse going into the weekend, after just 380 flights were canceled on Monday and 272 flights were canceled on Tuesday.
By the end of Wednesday, 1,412 flights were canceled across the country, as United Airlines officials announced they would be decreasing the number of available flights out of Newark Airport.
And to make matters worse, United Airlines officials announced on Thursday they would be cutting about 50 flights a day from one of the New York City area’s largest airports just days after officials at American Airlines announced they were eliminating service in Toledo, Ohio ; Ithaca, New York and Islip, New York.
The continued chaos comes as airlines struggle to meet the high summer demand for travel while also grappling with pandemic-related pilot shortages following massive layoffs.
The industry anticipates a shortage of 12,000 pilots this year as pilots must have 1,500 qualifying flight hours before they can actually take over a plane, according to Forbes.
There is also a shortage of flight schools to accommodate the training process, and pilot salaries and benefits have decreased in recent years.
Additionally, the Federal Air Administration has a mandatory retirement age of 65 for pilots, which also speeds up the retirement date for some.
And the pilots that are left are now petitioning for better treatment, claiming the airlines are overworking them to meet the demand for summer travel following the pandemic lull.
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Newark Liberty Airport saw 10 percent of its outgoing flights canceled Thursday morning, with 9 percent delayed. People are seen here lined up at customer service on Tuesday
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: The ongoing travel chaos continued into a second week on Thursday, with 674 flights canceled by noon and over 1,600 flights delayed coming into, leaving or entering the country
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: The ongoing chaos comes amid ongoing pilot shortages and high demand for summer travel
Now, several airlines have resorted to cutting down on their service, with United Airlines officials announcing on Thursday it would be cutting 12 percent of its domestic flights from Newark airport – where they say ongoing construction has disrupted travel.
‘After the last few weeks of irregular operations in Newark, caused by many factors including airport construction, we reached out to the [Federal Aviation Administration] and reached a waiver allowing us to temporarily adjust our schedule there for the remainder of the summer,’ Jon Roitman, executive vice president and chief operating officer told staff in a memo, according to CNBC.
‘Even though we have the planes pilots, crews and staff to support out Newark schedule, this waiver will allow us to remove about 50 daily departures, which should help minimize excessive delays and improve on-time performance – not only for our customers, but for everyone flying through Newark.’
United is the dominant airline at Newark Liberty International Airport, which is just across the Hudson River from New York City and gets heavy use from people living in and around the city.
Only domestic flights will be reduced, a United spokeswoman said Thursday, adding that United will not drop any destinations from Newark.
Newark is among the nation´s busiest airports and often has the highest number of flight delays. United CEO Scott Kirby has accused other airlines – Spirit and JetBlue in particular – of operating more flights than allowed under federal rules, and said FAA has ‘just let people brazenly break the rules.’
United Airlines officials announced on Thursday it is cutting 12 percent of its domestic flights from Newark airport
In a memo to employee, COO Jon Roitman explained that the airline received a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration allowing it to remove about 50 daily departures from the airport amid ongoing construction
United’s decision comes just days after American Airlines officials announced that the company ‘made the difficult decision’ to drop service to airports in Toledo, Ohio; Ithaca, New York and Islip, New York beginning September 7 citing a pilot shortage.
The airline is now allegedly contacting customers scheduled to fly after the route termination date in an effort to ‘offer alternate arrangements.’
A spokesperson for the company also said it is ‘extremely grateful for the care and service our team members provided’ at the impacted airports and claims to be ‘working closely with them during this time.’
Last week, Delta Airlines also announced it was cutting service by about 100 flights per day from July 1 to August 7 in an effort to combat ongoing staffing shortages.
CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo announcing the cancelations that the air carrier has been actively hiring new workers over the past year after more than 17,000 employees left the company in July 2020, at the height of the pandemic.
As of early June, Delta Airlines reported it had hired more than 15,000 workers in the last year but stated it was still not enough to meet the soaring travel demand.
In a statement about the delays and cancellations, Delta said: ‘All of our people, including our pilots, are working hard to restore our airline and deliver for our customers as we emerge from the pandemic. We are grateful and proud of their efforts.
‘We continuously evaluate our staffing models and plan ahead so that we can recover quickly when unforeseen circumstances arise, and the resilience of the Delta people is unmatched in that regard,’ it said in the statement to NBC News.
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Airlines have been cutting down on their schedules in recent weeks, leaving passengers stranded at the airports
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: The Transportation Security Administration reported that over 16.8 million people have passed through its checkpoints over the past week
Meanwhile, pilots are fighting back against the airlines, saying they are being overworked to meet the high demand and low staffing levels.
And in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Wednesday, Capt. Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, called for the FAA to investigate the airlines’ operations.
He said passengers should be concerned by the pilot staff shortage because it is causing those pilots who are on staff to become overworked.
‘They need to be concerned because I’m on TV saying ‘There’s a problem here,” he said, explaining that airlines are ‘flying more planes than they can actually fly,’ and saying that pilot fatigue has reached an ‘inhumane level.’
‘This is not a safety culture,’ Tajer said, as he called for the FAA to monitor airlines’ operations.
‘The FAA should come in and look at this,’ he said, claiming that the airlines ‘are ultimately letting down our passengers.’
He blamed the ongoing travel chaos on a ‘failure to plan by management,’ noting that U.S.-based airlines should have been prepared for a surge in demand after Congress approved $54 billion in three rounds of pandemic relief to cover payroll costs for 18 months.
‘This is a failure of management to utilize the money that was given to them by the American taxpayer to have us ready for the recovery, and we’re not,’ Tajer said. ‘They just did not plan.
‘What they did is they looked at the demand and they said ‘This is where the money is,’ but they never actually fulfilled that, and they put it on our plate.’
Tajer also noted that fatigue-calls have increased 10-fold since pandemic-era travel restrictions ended and more Americans sought to fly, claiming: ‘They’re trying to fly airplanes without the pilots available.
‘That’s just not doing business, that’s just selling something you don’t have.’
In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Wednesday, Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, called for the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the airlines’ operations
He said passengers should be concerned by the pilot staff shortage, because those who remain on the staff are being overworked and fatigued
According to the Transportation Security Administration, over 16.8 million people have passed through its checkpoints over the past week – up 22.6 percent from the same time last year, and a whopping 354 percent from 2020.
Many of these passengers have complained in recent days of staying overnight at airports over the weekend as their flights continued to be canceled or delayed.
One Emergency Room nurse from Pittsburgh said her trip home from Italy lasted about 60 hours, noting to WTAE: ‘There were no delays until I got into the States.’
Luray Hixson said she got stuck for nearly two days at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, explaining: ‘The flight itself was changed nine times, with the gates.
‘There were other Pittsburghers around who were following,’ she said, and ‘we were moved from terminal to terminal, which these terminals were nowhere near each other; we had to take shuttles to get to these other places to get your flight.’
After her longest delay, which was a whopping 12 hours long, Hixson said her flight was ultimately canceled.
Fortunately, she said, her mother was willing to pick her up from the airport and drive her six hours to get home.
Now, she says, she’s not sure if she will fly again in the near future, saying: ‘This is becoming the norm.’
And on Wednesday, a Twitter user posted a photo of a long line at Tampa International Airport saying: ‘They’re calling people out of line for flights.’
He added that he’s ‘pretty sure half the airport is in this line.’
A Twitter user posted on Wednesday that there were long lines at Tampa International Airport in Florida, claiming: ‘They’re calling people out of line for flights’
The chaos has even affected Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg who was forced to drive from Washington D.C. to New York over the weekend – just one day after he told airline executives to clean up their act to avoid another flying catastrophe for the July 4 holiday.
The father-of-two has given airline executives a short two-week period to clean up the mess and guarantee travelers can enjoy a patriotic weekend and summer without the airport stress.
He’s asked them to ‘stress-test’ operations ahead of the next big holiday – meaning travel firms could ultimately end up cutting more flights if they realize they’ll have insufficient resources to operate them.
‘At the end of the day, they’ve got to deliver,’ Buttigieg told the Today Show. The Democrat met with top airlines executives on Thursday to warn them to avoid the Memorial Day disaster, where 2,700 flights were canceled.
On Friday, Buttigieg tweeted: ‘Air travelers should be able to expect reliable service as demand returns to levels not seen since before the pandemic.