Major Airlines Are Making This Change After Canceling Thousands of Flights
Executives announced that the carriers have a plan to ease holiday travel headaches.
If the past few months have been any indication of what the coming months hold, it's going to be a brutal holiday travel season for Americans taking to the skies to see loved ones or just get away from home. Major airlines have struggled to meet customer demands stranded thousands of passengers in airports around the country by canceling thousands of flights. Fortunately, executives recognize that this issue needs to be addressed before the end-of-year holiday season. Read on to find out what major airlines are doing to shore up operations as much as possible in the coming weeks and what you can expect to find as you're booking your flights and arriving at the airport.
Southwest Airlines is trimming flights and adding crew ahead of the holiday travel rush.
Southwest Airlines created havoc for passengers last month when it canceled 1,800 flights, blaming air traffic control issues as well as weather. However, staffing shortages are known to be a source of problems across the aviation industry (and beyond), so to mitigate the potential for a chaotic season, Southwest trimmed its its schedule for November and December. The carrier is also ramping up staffing ahead of the holiday travel rush that begins at Thanksgiving and carries straight through Christmas to the new year.
Southwest is also aiming to double its reserve staff.
"So our reserves are over 20 percent for our crews, which helps you operate every single day," Southwest's next CEO, Bob Jordan explained to Yahoo Finance Live. Reserve staff are on-call to report for whatever flights needed.
That jump would be a major assist to the airline's staffing situation. Southwest had only half that amount of reserve staff in place in October when the airline was forced to scratch thousands of flights.
"It's all about reliability," Jordan continued. "Our customers need to get to where they're going and they need to depend on us and they can depend on us because they rely on us to get them to things that matter in their lives, to weddings and to visit family on holidays."
Other airlines are also adding flights back to their holiday schedules.
The spike in COVID-19 cases due to the highly contagious delta variant and waning vaccination numbers cut into demand for travel back in August and September. But major airlines predict that this upcoming holiday season will be as busy as pre-pandemic times, with travelers unwilling to miss out on another Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's holiday with loved ones. Delta Airlines noted "robust holiday demand and an expected improvement in corporate and international demand" in its Q3 earnings report. And United Airlines is planning to beef its holiday schedule back up to 91 percent of what it was in 2019, as reported by CNBC. At 3,500 flights a day planned for December, that's the most the carrier will have flown since the pandemic began.
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Millions of travelers are expected to fly this holiday season.
Airlines' efforts to staff up and adjust flight schedules will be welcome news to U.S. travelers, who have already faced major frustration as a result of this year's challenges across the industry.
According to Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) data, in 2019, approximately 2.6 million people passed through airport security every day during the Thanksgiving holiday, and about 2.5 million passengers daily during Christmas week that year. Southwest's Jordan told Yahoo that this holiday season is "following the curve… and you'll see load factors that are pretty typical." So managing that load will be the goal of every major airline.