• Wed. May 11th, 2022

Airline industry recovery is put to the test by holiday season as demand increases

The airline industry’s recovery is put to the test this holiday season as passengers return in near pre-pandemic numbers.

The resurgence of air travel is fueled by pent-up demand and the availability of vaccines, as well as an apparent lull in virus cases since the great summer wave.

The Transportation Security Administration says passenger checkpoints are almost as busy now as they were in 2019, before the pandemic.

Airlines have increased capacity to meet this demand, but the industry is hampered by a late recovery in the workforce. They are struggling to hire more staff, especially aircrews. This raised concerns that major airlines could experience a difficult December.

Like many industries, they compete to attract people, said Peter McNally, analyst at Third Bridge. They know what to do, it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.

Major airlines encouraged thousands of workers to quit last year when air travel collapsed during the pandemic. They have been prohibited from laying off workers as a condition of federal aid in the event of a pandemic. These workers did not return quickly enough, leaving the current workforce stretched. In many cases, flight crews reach their limit of authorized hours, forcing flight cancellations because there are not enough cabin crews.

American Airlines was faced with such a situation in late October when it had to cancel more than a thousand flights because it was understaffed. Southwest Airlines also made headlines about flight cancellations in October. Both airlines spoke of weather issues, although analysts said any real weather or air traffic problem only compounded the fundamental problem of staff shortages.

One of the issues airlines have so far encountered in their coverage has been the unpredictable nature of the booking, McNally said. People book trips with less time between booking and travel, which makes staffing more difficult.

American Airlines unions have warned for months that the airline is planning more flights than its workforce can handle.

These cases have shown how quickly weather conditions and now staff shortages can trickle down to airlines, just as they seek to maximize revenue falling into extremely slim operating margins, the data provider said. Cirium airline industry in a recent report.

American, Delta and United spent the first half of 2021 slowly recovering from the worst of the pandemic. Each airline has recorded modest improvements in available seat miles, a key measure of passenger capacity. This measure had almost returned to pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter.

The pressure to increase passenger capacity may have been too great for some airlines. Airline employment is still down more than 9% from record levels just before the virus pandemic gutted the industry, according to Labor Department data. Staffing levels will likely need to continue to increase to help maintain flight capacity for full revenue recovery.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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