Airlines try Jet Blue, Alaska trim tables for mild summers

As both customer demand and labor shortages persist, airlines are downsizing and adding flights in an effort to avoid a surge.

JetBlue Airways Corp. After canceling more than 300 flights this weekend, it said it would reduce flights throughout May and summer due to staff limitations. Alaska Air Group Inc. Last week it said it was organizing spring flying to catch pilot training. Meanwhile, other carriers, including American Airlines Group Inc., say they are ready for the summer uprising after a month-long hiatus.

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Carriers say they are taking the lessons of last summer seriously, with operations affected by rising demand. With fewer employees, many airlines have not been able to recover quickly from routine disruptions such as bad weather. Passengers faced cancellations, delays and hours of waiting for customer service assistance over the phone.

“We are very focused on maintaining our resilience,” said David Seymour, chief operating officer of the United States. “We have not reduced our security.”

On December 26, 2021, John F. Kennedy was born in Queens, New York. An American Airlines plane was spotted at Kennedy International Airport. (Reuters / Gina Moon / Reuters photos)

The U.S. has previously said it plans to hire about 180 pilots a month this year. According to Seymour, more than 600 people have been hired by the end of March. His team is involved in supply chains to ensure that issues such as catering shortages do not hinder flights and lead to delays.

“Two years ago, three years ago, I didn’t know it would always come to the COO level because you took it for granted,” he said. “I have dedicated groups to look after everything, from the stirrer to the napkins, pillows and blankets, to the headsets.”

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Airlines executives say Booking is higher than expected, Despite rising fuel costs, is raising ticket prices. Summer schedules are not over and are still volatile, but US airlines are currently planning to fly 16% more seats than last summer, according to data from Cirium.

“Operational personnel will be on the edge of the razor,” said Tim Donohue, co-founder of startup Aerology, which works to predict air disruptions. “The edge of the razor does not work when things go as planned.”

O'Hare Airport Chicago

Passengers line up at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on December 30, 2021. (AP Photo / Nam Y. Huh / AP Newsroom)

Covit-19 is still large. Earlier this year, airlines canceled thousands of flights as Omigron infections broke their staff. Airlines in the UK have been hit by similar epidemics this month, forcing flights to be canceled. It could happen again if US case rates rise again.

Carriers say they spent months hiring staff, including pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, landing staff and customer-service representatives.

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This weekend, JetBlue canceled 18% of its flights on Saturday and 13% on Sunday. The airline said it was trying to resume operations after the bad weather last week.

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Despite hiring more than 3,000 new employees this year, JetBlue says it still has fewer employees in some areas. The airline expects a record number of passengers this summer, but President Jonah Xeroxe wrote in a note to staff that the schedule set months ago was too ambitious to meet that need.

JetBlue plans to fly 8% to 10% in May and reduce similar levels over the summer, Ms. Geraghty wrote.

JetBlue Airways Corp. will fly from JFK Airport in New York to London Heathrow Airport on August 11, 2021. Passengers traveling on the opening flight. (Stephanie Keith / Bloomberg via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

“Based on your comments that the schedule is too tight, we now know that reducing capacity is the best plan,” he wrote.

Prolonged severe storms and airstrikes in Florida earlier this month triggered air activity. Although most airlines return to the schedule within a few days, some have had difficulty navigating the route. The unions said flight attendants faced hours of waiting to find transportation and hotels.

Some flight attendants were forced to sleep at airports, according to unions representing U.S. and Southwestern flight attendants.

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In a letter to top Southwest executives, Lynn Montgomery, president of the union representing Southwest flight attendants, wrote last week: “The current work environment is not only volatile, it is chaotic.”

A Southwest spokesman said the snuff was caused by full-booked hotels in Florida, where groups were trapped and that it was working to improve contingency planning.

A U.S. spokesman said the airline was aware of the problem and was working to improve it.

American Airlines O'Hare Chicago

American Airlines flight attendants arrived at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois on July 2, 2008 for work. (Scott Olson / Getty Images / Getty Images)

In an effort to ensure adequate flight attendants, JetBlue offers a $ 1,000 bonus for flight attendants who do not leave work until May 31, and an additional $ 100 per flight for flight attendants who make open flights over the holidays. , According to a note to the team.

Southwest raised the starting wage to a minimum of $ 17 an hour, and most airport employees do not need to have a high school diploma. Greg Mucio, the airline’s senior director for acquiring skills, said 15% to 20% of new hires do not come to certain roles on the first day. “We were shocked by this. We had to fix it,” he said.

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The airline says it expects to be able to hire enough staff to fly its June schedule.

Alaska, Delta Airlines Inc. And all American pilots have been involved in picketing in recent weeks, with airlines creating schedules with less error, making pilots more work and tired.

“We are constantly evaluating our employee models and planning ahead so that they can recover quickly when unforeseen circumstances arise,” a Delta spokesman said.

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Competition for pilots is fierce among airlines. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, a union representing southwestern pilots, says about 10% of pilots have dropped out of some of the latest new hiring classes. In one class, 27% is left. The union representing Alaska Air pilots said it had seen record-breaking decay.

Southwest Airlines Baltimore Durgud Marshall Airport

Southwest Airlines Flight Taxi on October 11, 2021 at Baltimore Washington International Durkut Marshall Airport in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo – Kevin Deitch / Getty Images / Getty Images)

Alaska blamed staff shortages for the cancellation of about 10% of flights last weekend.

It said on Thursday it would reduce air travel by 2% by the end of June. When Alaska set its schedule, it said 63 fewer pilots were ready to fly in April than planned in January.

Pilot training has also become a barrier as airlines do not always have adequate flight instructors or simulators to handle mass arrivals. As the Southwest worked to recruit more flight instructors, it had to withdraw its plans to hire first officers. He said Alaska is committed to ensuring that the schedule does not coincide with the number of pilots and that the pilots continue their training.

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“Throughout the epidemic we had to lift the plane back up and put the plane back into service so everyone is suffocating in training.” Spirit Airlines Inc. CEO Ted Christie said at an industry meeting. “We’ve getting there.”

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