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Nationwide Flight Cancellations: What's Causing Them?
Despite the United States continuing to break air travel records, nationwide flight cancellations continue to plague the airlines. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines both made headlines in June 2021 after canceling hundreds of flights leaving from airports throughout the country. Needless to say, enraged travelers — tired of being holed up thanks to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic — have taken to social media to slam the airlines for playing loose and fast with their hard-earned money. And who can blame them, really?
But the question still lingers in the air: what’s going on?
The short answer, of course, is, “depends on who you ask.”
The long answer is a lot more complicated.
One of the reasons for nationwide flight cancellations, according to Fox Business, is inclement weather. Tropical Storm Elsa is being closely monitored by airline officials, but extreme heat and rain are also frequent causes of IROPs (or, irregular operations). Last week, however, a spokesperson confirmed to the outlet that the inclement weather in the Rockies was the root cause of the IROPs.
“Meteorologists are modeling typical pop-up thunderstorms that will likely impact on-time performance of our flights of aircraft that operate near the Gulf Coast and the Rockies today— a typical summer pattern,” said a Southwest Airlines representative.
The Washington Post, however, revealed that there’s another source for nationwide flight cancellations: a labor shortage and capacity problems. In the former case, airlines simply don’t pay enough for workers to put up with the threat of physical abuse (we’ve all seen the Twitter videos) and a volatile job market in right-to-work states.
Capacity, of course, stems from the airlines’ new regulations of spacing between passengers — less room on planes means less passengers on board, and this combined with rising fuel costs leads to cost-prohibitive flights.
This, then, gets combined with antiquated equipment. As the Washington Post reports: “Cabin crews are being stretched thin, and any new hires need to get trained or recertified before taking to the air. The need for more pilots and mechanics, Del Monte [Bryan Del Monte, president of the Aviation Agency] said, is paramount. “You can’t operate a plane without somebody to fly it, and you can’t operate a plane if you can’t service it.”
And the final reason flights get cancelled, unfortunately, has to do with human stupidity. Airlines have a mask mandate whether people like it or not — and while you don’t have to like it, you do have to comply, or you risk getting the whole flight shut down. And according to Forbes, a set of high school students in North Carolina found this out the hard way when they “effed around and found out” on an American Airlines flight bound for the Bahamas.
The outlet reports that more than 30 students — who were originally from Boston and traveled to North Carolina — began “screaming, cursing, and getting obnoxious” when they were asked to put on their masks. This caused the flight to be delayed to the next day, costing the airline time and money, and causing the passengers to be (rightly) irate.
“All they had to do was follow the rules, put the mask on, sit there,” said one passenger. “No smart-mouth comments. And they couldn’t do it.”