Airlines Adjust to Travel Spike
The TSA recorded a new high in passengers passing through checkpoints over the weekend, with a total of 1,580,785 on April 2nd. That is the highest checkpoint throughput since March 12, 2020. The TSA has also constantly counted more than one million passengers daily, since March 11, 2021. Business and international travel continues to stall, so most of the recent spike has been attributed to leisure demand.
The uptick in travel comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday announced those who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus can safely travel in the U.S. without having to quarantine or get tested. With vaccinations becoming available to almost all Americans soon, travel will surely continue to trend upward.
The TSA has predicted already an untick in travel as summer approached. Now airlines are starting to adjust to that increased travel demand by recalling pilots, looking to hire more people, and even opening more seats, earlier than anticipated.
Southwest Airlines for example is calling back 209 pilots who were on voluntary extended leave. The additional pilots will help support Southwest’s summer schedule, and they will return to active status on June 1, 2021, according to a report in Reuters. Southwest follows Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, both of which have recalled pilots who were furloughed during the height of the pandemic.
United Airlines on the other hand, is looking to hire more pilots as it anticipates a recovery in the travel sector. The airline informed staff of the new hiring spree in an internal email reviewed by CNBC. The airline will start with hiring about 300 pilots who had conditional job offers or training scheduled last year before the airline called off hiring.
Spirit Airlines last month said it resumed hiring pilots and flight attendants, while other budget carriers Allegiant Air and Sun Country Airlines also expect to hire this year, CNBC reports.
Delta Air Lines even opened up middle seats a month earlier than expected, as it was caught off guard with staff shortages and spike in bookings during Easter Weekend. The airline canceled about 100 flights Sunday due to staff shortages so it had to adjust capacity of other flights to accommodate passengers. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience, and the majority have been rebooked for the same travel day,” the airline said Sunday in a statement. It clarified that middle seats were opened just for Sunday and Monday, and its seat-blocking policy has not changed, MarketWatch reports.