More people are flying — so why are airlines slashing flights and hiking prices?
A shortage of pilots and a faster-than-expected takeoff in passenger demand is forcing some airlines to cut back flights and retool schedules.
Passengers who have already booked their summer travel should look out for the possibility of rebookings — and those who have yet to buy their tickets should watch out for rising air fares, experts say.
Last week, daily passenger levels reached 2 million — nearing 2019 levels — according to traveler checkpoint data from the Transportation Security Administration.
Airlines coped with the plunge in passenger traffic during the pandemic by furloughing workers and accelerating retirement and early retirement programs at large scale, or encouraging them to take extended unpaid time off from the aviation industry. Some found new jobs in truck driving, warehouses or turned to food stamps.
The airline industry received $48 billion in payroll support from coronavirus relief legislation. Airlines warned of steep layoffs if more support wasn’t forthcoming. They also issued layoff notices and then canceled them after receiving more support. At the time, the industry said it needed the relief in part to maintain employees so they could meet domestic flying demand after passengers came back. Despite these efforts, the industry is still scrambling.