Will Airlines Continue Cutting Flights?

With US airlines cutting back on their fall schedules by hundreds of flights per day, diminished air travel capacity is causing frustration for plenty of customers; as are this year’s all-too-common flight disruptions.

Aviation industry experts told ABC News that this reduced capacity will become the new “normal”, as airlines and their support operations struggle to cope with the wave of demand that’s hit them in 2022.

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Carriers themselves have pointed to an unforeseen surge in demand, along with staffing shortages (including a dearth of qualified pilots) as being the causes of this year’s widespread flight cancellations and delays.

According to recent data obtained by the outlet from Airline Data Inc., major airlines have scheduled a total of 574,489 departures for October and 555,515 for the month of November. Compare this to the 677,882 and 639,248 departures made during the same respective months in 2019 to get an idea of ​​how much capacities have been reduced.

The number of flights that have been axed for October and November varies depending on the airline in question, but major carriers American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines exhibit the biggest gap between planned departures for those months in 2022 versus the same period in 2019 .

Taken together, these three airlines have scheduled about 95,000 fewer flights for October of this year than they did in October 2019; and 79,000 fewer flights for November than for the same period in 2019.

Commercial aircraft cabin with rows of seats down the aisle (Photo via Diy13 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Commercial aircraft cabin with rows of seats down the aisle. (Photo via Diy13 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Airline Data Inc.’s managing director, Jeff Pelletier, told ABC News that, since it will take several years for a new crop of pilots to train and certify, airlines are adapting as best they can by using “up-to-date booking curves “to determine where they should distribute their available resources. Essentially, assigning their aircraft to destinations that demonstrate higher booking levels and cutting back on the number of flights to places that aren’t too popular during the fall season.

“They’re using that time, that opportunity to say, ‘You know what? Let’s remove an aircraft where there’s lower bookings. Let’s put it where the passengers really want to go that way,'” said Pelletier. “This is going to be the new norm, I believe, for at least the next couple of years,” he opined.

“These cuts are, right now, placeholders,” Brett Snyder, president of Cranky Concierge travel assistance, told the outlet. “Typically, airlines plan out their flights about 100 days out, but those can change based on demand and other factors.”

For consumers who are concerned that there simply won’t be enough flights during those two months, Snyder had a reassuring message. He noted that airlines have historically added extra flights closer to their actual departure date, based on timing and demand. “I would bet we would see more flights added around Thanksgiving,” he said.


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