Robert Isom, American Airlines’ new CEO, wants everybody to know that they will be able to depend on the airline this summer. In fact, a high level of reliability will be what sets American apart from other airlines, he explains.
“People really need to feel like they have control of their itineraries, and we give them control by making sure they get to where they want to go on time,” Isom told pilots during a company town hall, according to Simple Flying. “I just can’t be any more blunt about it than that. Other airlines are really struggling.”
In early 2022, Hopper, which tracks prices for flights and hotels, reported that the average cost of a round-trip domestic flight was $235, according to The New York Times. Now, however, air fare has climbed 40 percent, to $330. Furthermore, Adit Damodaran, an economist at Hopper, said ticket prices could rise another 10 percent by the end of May, The Times reports.
Interestingly, rising fares don’t seem to dampen demand. For instance, last Friday, the TSA screened more than 2.3 million people, according to CNBC. While that number is still down about 10 percent for the same weekend in 2019 — before the Covid-19 pandemic — it is up 57 percent from last year, CNBC notes.
“We’re seeing an increase in demand that is really unprecedented,” Delta president Glen Hauenstein said at a JPMorgan investor conference, according to CNN. “I have never seen demand turn on so quickly as it has after [the COVID-19 variant] Omicron.”
The Industry’s Response
The problem is that many airlines urged employees to take buyouts and extended leaves of absence during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, as was the case in numerous other industries as well, many other employees simply retired.
Consequently, as pandemic-related travel restrictions began to be lifted, and people began flying again, airlines struggled to ramp their operations back up to speed. That, in turn, led to industry-wide flight cancellations and delays due to understaffing.
Airlines are now taking steps to prevent a recurrence of that situation.
For instance, Isom said American now has an adequate numbers of pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and customer service agents to handle summer travel.
“We’ve brought the schedule to a level that fits the resources that we have,” Isom said, according to CNBC
Likewise, Bob Jordan, Southwest Airlines new CEO, said earlier this year that “We need to get back to the point where you can set your watch by the reliability of our operations.”
To meet that goal, Southwest plans to hire between 8,000 and 10,000 new workers. The airline also has plans to take delivery of an additional 114 aircraft this year.
Finally, taking a different approach, JetBlue Airways has announced it will cut as much as 10 percent of its summer routes to avoid repeats of mass cancellations and delays, CNBC reported. In a similar move, Alaska Airlines has announced it plans a 2 percent capacity cut this spring due to a pilot shortage.
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