Less than three percent doesn’t sound like a hefty figure on its own. Put it into context suddenly and it sure looks a lot different.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation as reported by the Dallas Morning News, domestic airlines canceled more than 53,000 flights in the first six months of 2022.
That accounts for 2.8 percent of all flights – again, not an overwhelming number but when you factor in the number of displaced passengers it’s something of note. Using a very conservative estimate of an average of 120 passengers per flight, that’s more than 6.3 million air travelers who were inconvenienced between January and June.
The Morning News said American Airlines had the most canceled flights during that time span, scrubbing 3.8 percent of its trips in the first half of 2022. And that’s not even counting the 31,000 flights American has already canceled for the month of November.
The airlines have had a difficult time rebuilding their staff in the wake of the pandemic. Most airlines decided to augment the government grants and loans they received in early 2020 in order to stay afloat by trimming employees through early retirement or buyout offers. But the savings plan backfired when they didn’t have enough staff to meet the surge in pent-up demand for travel earlier this year.
For comparison’s sake, the newspaper noted that the last pre-pandemic year for the aviation industry in 2019 saw 2.1 percent of all U.S. flights canceled in the first six months. But even that number was inflated because many airlines lost the use of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from their respective fleets. The MAX was grounded for more than a year following two separate crashes.
“There’s no question that airlines’ reliability and on-time performance has been below anyone’s level of acceptability and the airlines would probably be the first to admit it,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research, told the newspaper. “These airlines know they have to get their acts together and, if they don’t, the government will step in to make sure they do.”