Passengers who have already booked flights to go home for the holidays should double check itineraries to make sure they still exist, as several major airlines have cut thousands of scheduled flights in November and around Thanksgiving due in part to staff shortages. It’s been a rocky few years for the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic put a major strain on airports, and airlines continue struggling to hire.
Earlier this month, more than 1,000 flights were delayed daily in America. London’s Heathrow Airport placed a cap on the number of passengers per day to alleviate the problem. In July, the airport asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets and imposed a limit of 100,000 passengers departing each day as it struggled to cope with a surge in travel after the end of COVID-19 travel restrictions. The cap will last until Sep. 11, 2022, and Heathrow said it is yielding positive results. The cap has reportedly resulted in fewer last-minute cancellations and more timely departures and baggage delivery.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttiegeg said “action will be taken” to reduce the number of delays due to airlines’ staff shortages. On Wednesday, he said his agency is ready to take enforcement actions against airlines that don’t perform. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Buttigieg said as the demand for travel continues, the Department of Transportation can and will enforce federal requirements. However, the government has limits on what it can impose on airlines so what that action looks like is unclear.
According to data from Cirium, an aviation analytics company, American Airlines cut 30,949 flights that were originally scheduled to operate in November. Delta Air Lines also confirmed it is trimming 4,500 flights from its November schedule, and United Airlines announced it would cut about 15,000 flights in November, a 10% schedule reduction for the month according to Cirium data. Many cuts are being made to accommodate staffing levels amid the hiring shortage. The airlines hope the move will help relieve travelers’ aches at the airport come Thanksgiving.