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Skift Travel News Blog

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


U.S. Unveils New Airline Customer Service Portal

2 years ago

Air travelers in the U.S. now have a one-stop shop when it comes to knowing what airlines will provide them with in the event of a lengthy flight delay or cancellation.

The new Airline Customer Service Dashboard by the Department of Transportation is designed to “ensure the traveling public has easy access” to airline commitments in the event of a disrupted trip, the regulator said Thursday. The commitments, which are largely a list of existing airline policies compiled together in one place, only apply to “controllable” events, or one where the airline is at fault, for example staff shortages.


“Passengers deserve transparency and clarity on what to expect from an airline when there is a cancelation or disruption,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “This dashboard collects that information in one place so travelers can easily understand their rights, compare airline practices, and make informed decisions.”

For example, if a travelers flight is delayed more than three hours due to a mechanical problem with the aircraft, the dashboard shows that they are guaranteed a meal voucher on almost all major airlines except Allegiant Air. However, if their flight is cancelled, only American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and United Airlines will rebook them on another carrier.

“Carriers welcome opportunities to simplify travel policies, clarify existing practices and increase transparency for travelers,” a spokesperson for trade group Airlines for America said.

The new dashboard follows a spike in flight delays and cancellations earlier this year that resulted in a blame game between airlines and authorities. While acknowledging their own staffing issues, airlines have claimed that air traffic control staffing has exacerbated the situation while the DOT has argued that the situation is primarily the fault airlines and weather. Whatever the reason, the regulator has moved to improve airline passenger protections, including a new rule that would guarantee cash refunds.

View the Airline Customer Service Dashboard


U.S. Airline Hiring Slowed in July With Nearly 7,000 New Staff

2 years ago

The U.S. air transportation sector added 6,800 jobs in July as the airline industry continues to staff up from Covid-19 pandemic lows.

The pace of hiring slowed from June when the sector, which includes airlines as well as others, added 11,000 new employees, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday. Air transportation companies employed 567,900 people at the end of July, an 8 percent increase from July 2019, before the pandemic hit.

Airlines have struggled with staffing, from pilots on down to airport ground crews, as travel has rebounded dramatically in the U.S. While most carriers say they now have the staff they need, onboarding new employees has created its own challenges.

“The chief issue we’re working through is not hiring but a training and experience bubble,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in July. At the time, the airline had “thousands in some phase of hiring and training process.”

Training bottlenecks aside, U.S. airlines are still struggling with hiring skilled staff — particularly pilots and maintenance technicians. The pilot shortage is primarily hitting smaller airlines, like Republic Airways and SkyWest Airlines, with few expecting the situation to completely ease for several years due to the long lead time training and certifying new cockpit crew members.

(Delta Air Lines)


Hopper Forecasts 12.9 Million U.S. Flyers Over July Fourth Holiday

2 years ago

The July Fourth holiday in the U.S. kicks off with this week with vacationers expected to begin hitting the road en mass on Thursday. That’s when an estimated up to 2.7 million daily travelers are expected to take to the sky with a robust 12.9 million flyers over the entire long weekend, according to a new forecast from Hopper.

To put the numbers in perspective, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) busiest day to date since the beginning of the pandemic was June 26 when agent’s screened 2.46 million people. Hopper’s estimate sees almost another 300,000 flyers traveling through airports across the country on Thursday and Friday, and an average of 2.6 million daily over the long weekend — or the five days from June 30 to July 4 — even as airlines and airports are already struggling with the surge of summer travelers.


“With flight delay and cancelation rates well above 2019 averages, travelers should prepare for potential disruptions traveling over the long weekend,” Hopper said. However, with many airlines proactively cancelling flights ahead of time, the number of delays has decreased in recent days.

The busiest airports are of no surprise: Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Denver — mega-hubs for Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines, respectively — top Hopper’s list. Los Angeles is also forecast among the busiest.


U.S. Airlines Paid Record for Fuel in April

2 years ago

The dramatic run up in oil prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has claimed a new record: the highest-ever average April fuel price for U.S. airlines since record keeping began 22 years ago.

U.S. carriers paid an average of $3.59 per gallon for 1.35 billion gallons of fuel — a tidy $4.85 billion — in April, new data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) show. The cost was up 18 percent from March, and 74 percent from April 2019.

(Tony Webster/Flickr)

Fuel prices in the U.S. have only held above $3.50 per gallon once before since 2000. They hovered between $3.57 and an all-time peak of $4.10 per gallon from June to October 2008, according to BTS.

The average price of fuel is only expected to rise further with Brent crude spiking to around $120 per barrel since the EU announced plans for a partial ban of Russian oil on Monday. On Wednesday, Delta Air Lines raised its second quarter fuel cost forecast by at least 7 percent to an average of $3.60-3.70 per gallon.


Memorial Day Air Travelers Top 13 Million, Still Shy of 2019

2 years ago

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 13.4 million people over the five-day Memorial Day holiday weekend travel period. That is the highest number since 2019, when TSA screened 14.4 million people over the same period.

But while travel demand came back strong as expected, it was not an easy weekend to fly. U.S. airlines cancelled more than 7,000 flights over the five-day period, according to data from Cowen & Co. and FlightAware. Delta Air Lines, which warned on May 26 that it would “thin” schedules over the holiday weekend, cancelled more than 700 flights.

“We expect a busy summer, and are concerned about the industry’s ability to handle the demand,” Cowen analyst Helane Becker wrote Tuesday. “Delta and JetBlue announced flight cancelations for July and into August as they try to get a handle on staffing. We also expect ticket prices to be high through the summer as demand exceeds supply. The lack of crew members means smaller cities will continue to lose service and pricing should be strong through at least Labor Day.”


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

2 years 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.


Only Two Travel Brands Feature in U.S. Top 100 Most Visible Brands List

2 years ago

According to new rankings from the Axios/Harris Poll 100, an annual survey to gauge the reputations of the 100 most visible brands in United States, Delta and Spirit are the only travel pureplays featured in the list. The survey this year focused on how the social issues companies are increasingly leaving into affect their reputation. For Delta, its has improved significantly since 2021, along with its trust and culture scores. Last year’s survey was conducted less than two months after the company faced criticism for its slow response on Georgia’s voting rights bill.

The findings suggest that companies that are slow to respond to political crises, or do it inconsistently, suffer the most in terms of consumer reception and trust.

Disney, which has theme parks and hotels and cruises, was one of the biggest droppers of the rankings, mainly due to its controversies around the Florida culture wars. From the Axios story:

  • Disney’s ranking dropped significantly — from 37th last year to 65th this year — likely because of its decision to speak out about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill after initially opting not to address it.
  • Disney’s about face shows the reputational hit that comes when the public perceives you as being calculating rather than clear in what you believe in and stand for,” said John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll.