South Bend airport faces national crew shortage, fewer, pricier flights

SOUTH BEND — Dana Sandoval of Cassopolis gets nervous that her flight will be canceled and she’ll be stuck in one of the numerous cities she connects to flying out of South Bend when she travels to visit her husband’s family in Guatemala twice a year.

She’s been stuck in Chicago and Houston in recent years because of delayed and canceled flights. So when she was looking at flight prices last month, she took the South Shore train and flew nonstop out of Chicago not only to save money but also ease her worries.

“It’s a process though,” she said of traveling to Chicago to fly.

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Sandoval is not alone in facing fewer and pricier flight options. As demand for travel has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, the aviation industry has had trouble keeping up. Through July 18, South Bend International Airport had 6,459 scheduled flights this year, compared to 8,619 during the same time in 2019, which can create more headaches if occasional delays and cancellations happen.

The numbers represent a national labor shortage, Mike Daigle, the airport’s CEO, said, but locally, the airport is surviving by not losing any of its destinations and maintaining steady employment at the airport itself.

Flight delays and cancellations

Scheduled flights still low as travel rebounds

Fewer scheduled flights this year are a result of a national crew availability shortage — an issue that could take years to fix as national airlines laid off thousands of pilots and flight attendants during the drastic dip in travel in the early stages of the pandemic. As travel picked up once again, there weren’t enough front-line workers employed to keep up.

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