Air travel hits another pandemic high as airlines scramble to keep up with summer crowds


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– Despite the surge in the delta COVID-19 variant, air travel in the U.S. is rebounding, reaching new pandemic-era highs. 

As a result, airlines are scrambling to keep up with the summer vacation crowds and that’s forcing many flights to be being canceled or changed in record numbers. 

Some experts believe the changes and cancellations are going to continue for a while because airlines are overwhelmed. 

Air travel is taking off. Travel Pulse said in May of 2021, 56.5 Million more people flew compared to the same month last year. That’s a 600 percent increase. 

Although more flights are being booked, an increasing number of travelers are finding their flight times changing after they’re booked–sometimes while they’re at the airport waiting to board. 

Changed flights aren’t the only problem. Cancellations are wreaking havoc with airline schedules. 

On Tuesday, American Airlines canceled 284 flights or 9 percent of its schedule and for the 3rd day in a row, Spirit Airlines canceled scores of flights. 

On Wednesday, Spirit canceled 60 percent of its flights, according to FlightAware.

Spirit blames “operational challenges” and is advising customers on its Twitter and website “to check fight status before going to the airport.” 

It’s not just those two carriers experiencing problems with delays and cancellations. 

All airlines have thousands of fewer workers than they did before the pandemic.   

In the last few weeks, many airlines have been caught short-staffed, even though they received $54 billion in taxpayer money to keep employees on the payroll. 

One of the reasons for short-staffing involves flight crews. Many crews have reached maximum work hours and there are no reserve crews available to fill in. 

The U.S. Senate’s Commerce Committee wants to investigate how airlines managed their workforces considering what’s happening in the industry right now. 

There’s also worry about whether the delta variant will affect the leisure travel industry as cases continue to explode. 

As of Wednesday, airline officials say they have yet to see bookings suffer because of the delta variant. 

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