The pandemic’s busiest airport travel weekend encountered chaos and ‘extremely high’ volume amid worker shortages and flight cuts
The start of the summer travel season ushered in what is set to be the busiest weekend for airports since the pandemic slumped travel demand last year, and although the number of air passengers may remain well below pre-Covid levels for years to come, worker shortages, flight cuts and influx of unruly passengers already portend a very difficult recovery for US airlines.
The Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 4.1 million passengers on Friday and Saturday, nearly four times the throughput a year earlier and marking the start of the busiest weekend since March 2020.
“We are seeing extremely high volume at BNA this morning,” warned travelers at Nashville International Airport on Sunday, one of many struggling with rising passenger numbers. request arrive at least two hours before their flight during the busier-than-expected summer season.
The big travel weekend comes just days after American Airlines announced it would cancel nearly 1,000 flights through mid-July to ease pressure from labor shortages in the ‘industry (with airports and the TSA among those also facing labor shortages) amid increasing customer demand.
Allied Pilots Association spokesperson Dennis Tajer said Dallas Morning News the airline “may have bitten more than [it] could chew “with its busy summer travel schedule after laying off more than 30,000 employees last year and warning of 13,000 more possible layoffs in February.
Record trips and longer wait times at the airport also coincided with an unprecedented rise in unruly passengers, with a man, for example, entering an altercation on a flight to Los Angeles on Friday, then jumping from the moving plane.
“The first weeks of June brought unprecedented weather conditions to our largest hubs, severely affecting our operations and causing delays, canceled flights and disruption of crew member schedules and our customers’ plans,” said a US spokesperson said in a statement last week.
3.082. That’s the number of unruly passenger reports the Federal Aviation Administration has filed so far this year, the vast majority involving customers refusing to wear masks. Reports so far have triggered 487 investigations in 2021, already more than double the number of investigations initiated last year and more than any other year on record.
TSA will resume self-defense training for flight crew members in early July after suspending the training program due to Covid-19 restrictions. “With the increase in unruly passenger incidents, the TSA remains committed to equipping flight crews with another tool to keep our skies safe,” the agency said in a statement Thursday.
With the stunting of the coronavirus pandemic, shares of U.S. airliners plunged last year amid multibillion dollar losses in the industry. In total, around 400,000 airline workers have been made redundant, put on leave or told they could lose their jobs due to the pandemic. “It took years, not months after September 11 and after the Great Recession for shipments to return to pre-crisis levels,” said Tom Kozlik, head of municipal strategy and credit at Hilltop Securities, based in Texas, in a research note. week. “The same is likely to happen this time around,” he added, predicting that air travel could take until the end of 2023 to fully recover.
What to watch out for
The upcoming holiday weekend is also set to be huge for the airlines. Although current travel remains about 20% below pre-pandemic levels, the AAA predicts that nearly 3.5 million Americans will take to the skies this July 4 weekend, reaching 90% of levels of before the pandemic and marking a 40% increase over last year.
American Airlines cancels hundreds of flights due to labor shortage (Forbes)
Airlines lost more than 400,000 employees – United Airlines announced another 14,000 jobs could be lost (Forbes)