Let’s talk about why flights get cancelled. Especially during these past few months of winter 2021 and 2022, we have experienced unprecedented amounts of these occurrences.
First, I want to address the ‘elephant in the cabin’ if you will. We are in a pandemic. Multiple factors are in play with this subject alone. As crew members, we are exposed to more things than you can probably imagine. We work with and for the public so we are especially susceptible to exposure to infectious diseases such as colds, flus, and viruses. That’s why we always take extra precautions to keep ourselves as healthy as possible. After all, you are counting on us to always be at our best!
The airlines have said this latest wave of flight cancellations are lack of pilots and crewmembers due to the Corona virus. While this is true, there are also other factors at play. There is a snowball effect when it comes to labor shortages in the whole transportation chain, not just pilots and crew. For example, if the hotel transportation company is short staffed and is unable to pick up the flight crew, then they cannot get to the airport on time in order to get the aircraft prepped and ready to go. If there is a shortage of ground staff, there will be no way to load all of the luggage onboard in time for the planned departure. If the airline is short on agents who need to stay quarantined because of exposure, then there is reduced support at the ticket counters, gates, and jetways. Everyone is a critical piece of the well oiled machine that is airline operations.
EFFECTS FROM LAST YEAR:
The airlines were facing near complete shutdowns in 2020 for a duration of almost a year. Travel demand went from one hundred percent to ten percent in what felt like a snap of the finger. Commercial airlines, aviation contractors, airshows, etc were decimated and desperate to find ways just to stay in business. Perhaps second only to cruise ship operators, aviation was the economically hardest hit industry around the world. It was similar to the post 9/11 economic devastation, but this time it was a global crash. Needless to say, hundreds of thousands of aviation workers lost their jobs due to staffing cuts, and thus their livelihood and their ability to care for their families.
Some airlines managed to stay optimistic, working with their employees and unions to stay nimble and flexible. Some workers voted to have large hour and pay cuts in order to keep all co-workers on staff. Poised to spring back into action when demand returned (and with the aid of government and private equity companies), those companies managed to be creative, reaping a bit of the rewards now. Yet, we are seeing the affects of those people we lost due to layoffs, those who took early retirements, and those who simply changed paths to industries more stable than aviation.
Let’s also add in the factor of mandates for vaccines. If companies force the issue for all employees to be vaccinated, tens of thousands of people who dedicated their lives to keeping people safe, are now without jobs because of their medical issues or religious beliefs. This has also created a shortage of seasoned workers that we needed in order to recover to original schedules.
As we move forward, developments such as vaccines, preparations to keep the travel environments safe and clean, and training new people, takes time and money.
Just to hire a new pilot who is highly experienced and well trained, takes an average of at least eight months and approximately $50,000 of training before they are able to fly the line with passengers. Thinking industry wide, as the travel demand rebounds, we now need the next generation of mechanics, dispatchers, air traffic controllers, pilots, flight attendants, agents, engineers, etc. to fill the open jobs for those who have moved on while, at the same time, keeping up with future growth demands.
Typically, this time of year, we have some significant weather factors. Ice and snow systems that kick up wild winds, low visibility, or fast building runway clutter that cannot be kept up with, will cause wide spread disruptions. The airplanes often are scheduled to fly most of the day and night because that makes owning them efficient. Yet, if there is large delay due to weather in one region, then sometimes it will effect several of the following planned flights downline.
All of these factors have culminated in what some have referred to as “the perfect storm”. The good news is that as we all stay hopeful and optimistic for a full recovery, we will get to take those trips we have always dreamed of! Always keep positive, think of where you have always wanted to go, and let’s make it happen!
Wishing you Blue Skies, Smooth Rides, and Great Health!