- Airlines are slashing flights from their fall schedules to avoid mass delays and cancellations.
- But the industry may not fully recover until 2024, said one travel analyst.
- Recruiting and training new employees can take months, making problems more difficult to resolve.
Traveling this summer has been nothing short of a nightmare — a “flightmare,” as some outlets call a wave of massive flight delays and cancellations.
But you can only get up from here, right?
Unfortunately, while delays appear to be receding for some airlines, the industry may not fully recover until 2024 at the latest, according to Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of the Atmosphere Research Group. I have.
Adam Gordon, managing director of Boston Consulting Group, told Insider that summer is usually a difficult season to fly, thanks to high demand and bad weather. Add in the lingering effects of a two-year delay in planning and you have a sure recipe for disaster.
This fall, as the sprawling industry recovers from near-destruction, it will become clear whether the summer’s turmoil was a temporary setback or more of a systemic problem.
“It’s easy to forget how dramatically airlines had to cut capacity to get through the early days of the pandemic,” Gordon said. “Reversing operations is no easy task, and the operational challenges we have seen recently are largely the result of this complexity rather than failures in planning and execution on the part of airlines.”
It’s no secret that employment has been one of the major challenges that has prevented airlines from fully recovering, but it’s not a problem that can be solved by simply sending an offer letter.
New employees at airlines and airports must undergo training (which can take up to 13 weeks depending on the position) and retention.
“Every month, the aviation industry graduates more pilots to help alleviate the pilot shortage, and more workers are being hired, trained and put into jobs,” he said.
As United CEO Scott Kirby explained in July, the major U.S. airlines are not taking more flights than they can realistically staff. We’re cutting up to 31,000 flights from the November schedule to create more “buffer” room in the system.
“The weather is bad and people call in sick. Sometimes the jet bridge breaks and we lose power for 20 minutes,” he said. “The system doesn’t have the buffer to deal with it. That’s basically why we’ve lowered the schedule to create more buffer.”
“2023 will be a better year for the industry than 2022,” Harteveldt said, as U.S. airlines overhire and cut routes.
“But what I’ve heard from many people within airlines is that they believe things may not return to normal until 2024,” he continued.
Airline CEOs are somewhat optimistic. Delta’s Ed Bastian said in July that the company was aiming to return to “100%” by the summer of 2023, but said the goalposts could move “depending on how the economy evolves.” I warned you.
Harteveldt told Insider that, ironically, an increase in the economic slowdown could be beneficial for airlines’ business recovery.
“If the U.S. economy experiences a significant weakening, whether it’s slowing growth or a recession, it’s very likely that demand for air travel will decline, and that decline in demand will force airlines to operate fewer flights. pressure to do so could be eased.” He added that it would give the industry an opportunity to “catch up” with hiring.