Delta Crew Shortages Lead To Massive Flight Cancellations
I shared earlier today, in Around the Web, that the day before Thanksgiving was the busiest travel day since March. It still fell well short of the numbers from the year before, over 50% less, but it was still a very busy travel day for late 2020. It seems one airline might have cut a little too deep on recent layoffs and wasn’t quite prepared for spike. Because of Delta crew shortages they had to cancel over 500 flights this past week. That ended up being nearly 1 in 5 of their scheduled flights, which is very high number. Delta has said they expect the surge to level out this weekend and for operations to get back to normal heading into next week.
According to CNN Delta said Wednesday that a “number of factors have pressured our ability to timely staff some of our scheduled holiday flights” but did not specify the issues.
What Led To The Disruption
As other airlines, like American Airlines, were slashing holiday flights Delta decided to add some after they had already made the November employee schedule. Upon adding the flights they asked for volunteers to fill the increased inventory of flights. It appears they were already stretched too thin or people were not willing to volunteer because many of the flights ended up being cancelled from the staffing shortages. Pilots and other staff were offered premium pay for picking up the extra flights.
CNN also reports that the Union did come out to say that none of the cancellations were due to people calling out sick because of the coronavirus.
“While we have recently seen an uptick in COIVD cases with our pilots over the last few weeks concurrent with the nationwide increases, cancellation numbers would not suggest that COVID issues are the cause in this case,” Chris Riggins, a Delta first officer and ALPA spokesman, said in the union statement. “It’s also important to note that sick calls are down over last year despite being embroiled in a global pandemic.”
Holiday travel usually wreaks havoc during a normal year so issues were for sure expected during a year like 2020. Having said that, I doubt anyone expected almost 20% of all Delta flights to be canceled. Especially when you consider there were no major weather issues, but that is exactly what happened. The TSA numbers have surpassed one million people in a day only four times since mid March and three of them were this past week. I guess that puts it into a little more perspective for us. The airlines have also noticed a lot more last minute bookings than usual which kind of blindsided them.
Hopefully everyone got where they needed to go in time. I do wonder if Delta continuing to block the middle seats compounded the issues at all and increased the need to add flights.