If you thought airports were getting back to normal this fall, we’ve got some news for you. It will be a year before air travel returns to normal, according to United Airlines’ CEO. 

Traveling this summer means you’ll most likely feel the effects of staff shortages, with flight cancelations and delays. Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines tells CNBC, “The biggest challenge that faces us probably for the next 12 months is all the infrastructure challenges around aviation.” 

Shot of a man looking through the window at an airport

He goes on to say, “All the costs are still there because we’re prepared to be a much bigger airline — we have the people to be a much bigger airline — but we’re going to be a smaller airline till the system can support it.”

Related: Skip These Airports If You Want To Avoid Delays And Cancellations This Summer

What United is doing

United, along with other airlines has been cutting flights this summer. Dozens of flights have been cut from United Airlines’ hub in Newark. The airline has also canceled multiple flights at two airports and a third route has been cut for the fall.


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Flight delays improving

Flights are still being delayed daily, but things are getting better. According to the acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration, the 10 major carriers in the U.S. canceled 2% of domestic flights in May compared to 2.3% in April.

“So we’re seeing progress across parts of the system. Our base assumption is though that it’s going to gradually get better and we’re not going to get back to normal utilization and normal staffing levels until next summer,” says Kirby.

Travel this winter

Many of us have high hopes for travel this fall and winter. However, Kirby shares, “Unfortunately, there still are going to be fewer seats available around the whole system, because the infrastructure around aviation can’t support it.”

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Kirby’s tip for winter travel is, “You should probably book early for Christmas…we’re going to fly less so we can make sure we have reliability.”

Related: London’s Heathrow Airport Asks Airlines To Stop Selling Summer Tickets, Caps Passengers At 100,000 A Day