Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

A Flight Attendant’s Tips for Travelers Reveal a Lot About the Industry Too

3 months ago

Are flight crews sometimes the last to know about cancellations?

Veteran flight attendant Kristie Koerbel’s tips for travelers on navigating the current travel chaos and cancellations, as published in The New York Times, also had some interesting tidbits about the airline industry as a business.

Shown here, a Delta flight attendant offers complimentary welcome Bellini cocktails in November 2019 for an inaugural flight. Delta Air Lines

Koerbel wrote that it is wise to download the app of the airline you are flying — or trying to fly, that is — because “in some cases you will know a flight is canceled before the flight crew even knows.” She also said travelers can use the app to track bags, the whereabouts of the incoming flight, and to rebook.

Another interesting factoid? Here’s why you will be chilled flying in short-sleeves.

“Here is a flight attendant secret: We sometimes keep the airplane cold intentionally. For people who struggle with airsickness, heat makes it worse. We don’t want anyone to use those sick sacks,” Koerbel wrote.

Koerbel tied some of the spate of flight cancellations to a fact that many people in the travel industry already know — there are time limits to how long flight crews can work.

“Something that is not common knowledge is that flight crews have time limits on how long they can work, generally 12 to 16 hours at a stretch,” Koerbel wrote. “Besides being unsafe, it’s illegal for us to fly longer than that. If your flight crew gets delayed and hits that time, it doesn’t matter if you have somewhere to be, we are done when we are done. The way things are right now, there aren’t many back up crews, so your flight may be canceled.”

The labor shortage at airlines and airports isn’t all about flight attendants and pilots.

“Now we are short-staffed and overworked,” she wrote. “Not just pilots and flight attendants, but also ground crews. You may not think about ground crews, but without them there is no one to park the planes, drive the jet bridges so you can board and get off, load your bags and retrieve them, or scan boarding passes.”

All of those airline buyouts or staff cuts during the pandemic have come home to roost, so to speak, as workers bolted to leave the airline industry. When Amazon and Uber offer comparable compensation to low-paid ground crews, the airline industry has a problem.

Airlines

EasyJet’s Top Operating Exec Quits After Weeks of Cancellations

3 months ago

EasyJet’s Peter Bellew has resigned as chief operating officer, following weeks of turmoil at the airline.

He has now left “to pursue other business opportunities” the airline said in a statement on Monday, effective July 1, as other European airlines prepare for a difficult summer ahead — including SAS which will now face widespread strikes after pilots voted on Monday to take industrial action.

Airport caps will also contribute to an already challenging period.

For now, David Morgan, easyJet’s director of flight operations, will lead the operations function in an interim role, reporting to CEO Johan Lundgren.

“The board would like to thank Peter for his hard work over the last two and half years and wishes him well in his future endeavours,” the airline said, adding it continues to operate up to 1,700 flights each day, carrying up to 250,000 passengers.

Meanwhile, pilots at beleaguered Scandinavian carrier SAS Airlines will be going on strike after their wage talks with the management failed to yield any results.

The strike is expected to impact 50 percent of all flights, or 30,000 passengers per day. Flights operated by SAS Link, SAS Connect and SAS’ external partners will not be affected.

“The decision to go on strike now demonstrates reckless behavior from the pilots’ unions and a shockingly low understanding of the critical situation that SAS is in,” said Anko van der Werff, the airline’s president and CEO, in a statement.

A strike at this point is also devastating for debt-ridden SAS which is in dire financial straits as a result of hefty debts.

Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, the airline has its hubs in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo. Sweden and Denmark both have 21.8 percent stakes in SAS. However, following the latest financial crisis, Sweden had refused to inject more money into the airline.

Airlines

Toledo Largest U.S. City to Lose Air Service Due to Pilot Shortage

4 months ago

Toledo, Ohio, has the unfortunate distinction of being the largest U.S. city, and one of the first, to entirely lose air service on a network carrier due to the pilot shortage.

American Airlines will end flights to Toledo from Chicago O’Hare on September 7 citing the “regional pilot staffing shortage,” a spokesperson confirmed Thursday. With American’s departure, Toledo will lose its sole connection to the global airline network — in other words, there are no longer one-stop flight connections to Los Angeles, New York, or Tokyo. Allegiant Air will continue to serve Toledo but the discounter serves a leisure traveler niche of people that only want to go to Orlando or Phoenix, and not further afield.

(MrJacon000/Wikimedia)

Other airports have lost air service since U.S. airlines began reporting a shortage of pilots last year. For example, American dropped Williamsport, Pa. — a city of less than 28,000 people in 2021, according to the U.S. Census — from its map in September 2021, Cirium schedules show. But most have either lost a network carrier, primarily United Airlines, or nonstop flights but retained other air service. In addition, the 29 airports that SkyWest Airlines is exiting are all part of the U.S. government’s essential air service program that mandates a replacement — like Southern Airways Express — be found before SkyWest ends flights.

Toledo is a unique case. Long the headquarters for Jeep and a decent size metropolis of more than 260,000 people, it is sandwiched between two much larger airports: Detroit at just over an 1 hour distant and Cleveland two hours away, according to Google Maps. So the loss of American is not a huge blow in the scheme of things but, with regional pilot costs rapidly rising, it hints at things to come.

Airlines

U.S. Airfares Up More Than a Third This Summer

4 months ago

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: air travel is pricey this summer, and getting pricier.

Cowen & Co. analyst Helane Becker estimated in a report Friday that U.S. airfares are up roughly 34 percent compared to to last year. That’s a big jump and likely to climb higher as airlines continue to par back schedules. Delta Air Lines said Thursday that it would “thin” schedules over Memorial Day weekend and into August, including cutting roughly 100 daily flights from July 1 to August 7. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines have already reactively cut schedules or updated guidance with fewer flights than they hoped to fly this summer.

“Demand is above 2019 levels, but capacity is still below 2019 levels,” Becker wrote. “We estimate it is ~90 percent of levels seen three years ago, and airlines continue to reduce capacity for this summer.”

She cited five reasons, including pilot staffing, aircraft, and air traffic control, for why airlines are reducing their schedules:

True to form, at midday on the Friday before Memorial Day — the unofficial start of summer in the U.S. — the Federal Aviation Administration limited the number of flights into, out of, and through Florida airspace due to “weather and staffing” at its Jacksonville air traffic control center.

Becker estimated that roughly 13 million people will fly in the U.S. this Memorial Day weekend. That would represent 90.5 percent of the number who flew over the same weekend in 2019.

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