20 million travelers are expected to test airlines

Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport (Los Angeles) on Thursday, November 18, 2021 will surpass the crowd as up to 2 million people are expected to pass through Los Angeles International Airport during the two-week Thanksgiving holiday period starting today. which could potentially double that number. from the same time last year.

Al-Seib | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Travelers are about to find out if airlines are ready for a surge in passengers on Thanksgiving.

The TSA plans to screen about 20 million people between Friday and November 28, which will almost return to 2019 levels. Many of these travelers missed Thanksgiving travel last year as the number of Covid cases increased and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against traveling while on vacation.

Both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said Sunday after Thanksgiving could be their busiest day since the pandemic. Airlines forecast this week that they will send at least 5.6 million and 4.5 million travelers between November 19-30, respectively.

The increase in the number of travelers is good news for one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. But some airlines have struggled to meet their ambitious schedules from time to time, resulting in a large number of flight cancellations, most recently at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

The right balance is critical as airlines struggle to return to profitability, facing challenges from higher fuel prices and new restrictions in parts of Europe.

These carriers canceled more than 2,000 flights this fall in less than one week. Delays and cancellations are annoying for travelers who have complained about long hours of waiting to speak to customer support and sometimes longer than their flights.

Personnel struggle

Labor shortages have become a major concern for airlines, prompting thousands of workers to take vacations or retirements to cut carriers’ payroll during the pandemic. Now they are in a rush to hire pilots, booking agents, flight attendants and other workers. Sickness calls also contributed to disruptions.

Low staffing makes it harder for airlines to recover from routine problems such as bad weather.

“This is going to be a busy holiday season,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said at the Skift Aviation Forum on Wednesday. “We are ready for this.”

The airline plans to operate about 5,000 flights per day during Thanksgiving week, with a schedule just 8% below what it did during this period in 2019.

American offers flight attendants 50% higher pay for work vacation travel and up to three times the pay for those flights if they also meet their attendance targets by early January. The Fort Worth-based airline also provided $ 1,000 incentives to attend the holidays to other employees, including those at its regional airline subsidiaries.

The American Airlines Pilots Union has rejected the company’s offer to double pay for vacation travel, saying the airline needs to make ongoing changes to its schedule.

“The planes should be in the air, not the timetable,” said Allied Pilots Association spokesman Dennis Thayer.

Southwest, for its part, offered frequent flyer employees a must of over $ 1,400 to meet their holiday attendance goals through early next year.

Allowable error

United and Delta have been more conservative about increasing capacity, although they are partially constrained by lengthy travel restrictions compared to more US-focused carriers.

United predicts that it will recover 77% of its capacity in the fourth quarter, while Delta predicts 80%, American 89% and Southwest 92%, according to securities reports.

In recent weeks, the CEOs of United and Delta have written to clients assuring them that they can book travel with confidence by promoting talent strategies and customer service tools.

This week, United CEO Scott Kirby struck a blow at his competitors who have stumbled in recent months.

“We left ourselves a margin of error. In an airline, if you don’t add margin of error, there may be slight ripples in the system, whether it is a delay in the weather during the day or a strong wind one day if you “If you are not careful, it can lead to a collapse,” he said on Skift conference on wednesday. “I think some of our competitors have lost the margin for error in their zeal to return to full flight.”

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