Just as people are once again allowed to travel unfettered by mask mandates and inoculation visas, airlines decide it’s a prescient time to trim flight schedules. How much stranger will this world become? For those with a certain amount of wanderlust, that’s not the only sticky wicket for which travelers must adjust: Airlines across the board are stopping service in many cities altogether.
Between continued pilot shortages, lack of employees, and a hard lesson learned about biting off more than they could chew last summer, airlines are just telling Americans to deal with it as they sort out the latest unintended – or otherwise – consequence of the pandemic.
That Jab Requirement – You’re Grounded
There were 20,000 flights canceled this past weekend. The decrease of available, qualified staff, depleted due to past COVID-19 restrictions and a scare of mutant strains of the virus, caused all carriers to decrease schedules dramatically. Add in the presidential mandates that some companies simply ignored, the few pilots who were fired for refusing the jab, and other employees who practiced the union strike tactic of a “sick out,” and airlines have spent months attempting to restaff to capacity and fulfill flight commitments.
InteleTravel’s co-founder and president, James Ferrara, spoke with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto about what some call Travel Armageddon. As dramatic as it sounds, that label is a reality of what the industry faces: “Once a pilot is out of work for 90 days, they have to go through recertification, get back in the simulator, and schedule the time slots – it takes months.” In addition, Ferrara says the world lost one-half of its pilots because of the pandemic.
And how is that working out this year at the height of vacation season with people desperate to kiss cabin fever goodbye?
JetBlue COO and president, Joanna Geraghty, sent a memo to employees in late spring explaining the current plan for the vacation season: The schedule would be reduced by 8-10%, effective May 1. A memo delivered by United Airlines Chief Operating Officer Jon Roitman advised employees the carrier will cut 50 daily domestic flights, or 12% of its schedule, out of Newark, NJ, beginning July 1. So, hopefully, those Independence Day plans will survive.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports airlines must hire 14,500 pilots every year for the next decade to keep up with the shortage created over the past couple of years. However, that appears not to be working out so well, considering the reduction in air travel opportunities. And that makes a more uncertain future for the once-convenient form of travel.
Thanks for Flying the Troubled Skies
There are those pilots and people that are seeing the silver-lining of the ominous black cloud: inexperienced – or still wet behind the ears – pilots are seeing the Benjamins. One young pilot recently hired by a major airline told Fox News the shortage has his peers “excited.” Justin Jackson is 26 years old and began his flight training in 2018. As he bluntly puts it, “The shortage is kind of what in the beginning drew me into becoming a pilot just because of the opportunities that a shortage creates with jobs. I have a chance to fly for a much larger carrier, be paid more. I think right now is the perfect time for anyone to progress their careers for sure.”
For sure. Amtrak, anyone?