• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

Here are the steps the airline industry is taking to create a better travel experience for everyone

ByKimberly A. Brochu

Aug 16, 2022

During the pandemic, air travel has come to a screeching halt, dropping to levels not seen since the dawn of the jet age. The planes were parked wing to wing in the desert. Airports have remained empty, like forgotten ghost towns, not resembling transport and trade hubs. It was widely feared that this sector of the US economy could collapse. These were difficult times for the airline industry.

Today, air travel is booming. Every day, 2 million people pack their bags, go through security checks and board planes in the United States. Americans are taking family vacations, attending weddings and heading to long-delayed reunions with loved ones.

No one could have predicted that the US airline industry would see passenger numbers soar from 1950s levels to near 2019 levels in a matter of months. This recovery has been much faster than predicted by economists, analysts and industry watchers.

Reviving an entire industry in such a short time is an unprecedented feat – and it wouldn’t have been possible without the Payroll Support Program (PSP). The PSP was a lifeline for the industry at a time when US airlines were collectively burning $10-12 billion each monthwith no end in sight.

The program allowed US airlines to stay in business and avoid bankruptcy. Carriers have been able to keep hundreds of thousands of employees on the job, trained, fired and ready to go. Democrats and Republicans – in the House and Senate – backed the PSP, as did union leaders representing flight attendants, pilots and mechanics. PSP funds went only to employee paychecks, as required by law, and carriers repaid government loans. Without PSP, we might not have an airline industry in this country at all. Today American airlines fly and people travel thanks psp.

The sudden resurgence has been accompanied by challenges. Like other industries, airlines are navigating a drastically changed workforce and learning that pre-pandemic staffing models simply don’t work anymore. There are more employee absences due to COVID-19 and fewer employees able to work overtime. Therefore, airlines need more on-call reserve employees.

Airlines are hiring at a rapid pace. They invest in flight schools and have launched job campaigns. Last week, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that US airline employment had hit a absolute record. In June 2022, A4A passenger carriers had 10% more pilots per 1,000 block hours than in June 2019.

For its part, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has launched a hiring drive to help ensure that enough air traffic controllers are trained and in the towers. However, it is not a simple process. “While we’re facing controller staffing issues within the FAA, it’s not as simple as moving fully certified professional controllers from one facility to another,” Rich Santa said recently. , president and CEO of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “Controllers who are fully certified at one facility still need to practice charts, frequencies, airspace, procedures and traffic at their new facility and there is no guarantee how long that will take. or that they will succeed.”

Airlines are constantly working with the FAA to address common operational challenges, including inclement weather, so that schedules can be adjusted and carriers can communicate with travelers.

Our airlines understand the importance of communicating with customers, which is why they have accelerated significant investments in technology upgrades, including mobile apps. And travelers are increasingly relying on technology for check-in, operational updates, baggage tracking and automatic rebooking.

Department for Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently said airlines need to have “realistic” schedules, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. Carriers are constantly evaluating their operations. Last spring, US airlines proactively adjusted their schedules and reduced their summer capacity by 16% to accommodate staff realities.

Airlines have also adjusted their travel policies to increase flexibility, such as eliminating change fees or removing expiration dates for travel credits. US carriers have issued $21 billion in cash refunds since the pandemic began, and refund complaints to the Department of Transportation (DOT) have steadily declined.

While we recognize that it will take time to establish a new normal, US airlines are committed to restoring service, improving operations and adjusting our business models to better serve the traveling public.

Airlines always strive to provide the highest levels of customer service, from ticket purchase to landing. Simply put, we want travelers to have a safe, seamless and positive travel experience – and we won’t stop working every day to achieve that goal.

Nicholas E. Calio is President and CEO of Airlines for America (A4A).

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com comments are solely the opinions of their authors and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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