A pilot shortage has led Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group to slash regional flights around the country, prolonging travel pains that first emerged during Christmas Eve.
Bloomberg reports Delta will slash a quarter of its flights through the first half of this year. American is expected to drop 580 March flights at its wholly-owned Piedmont Airlines and a number of flights at its regional partners SkyWest Inc. and Mesa Air Group Inc.
The shortage is not just because pilots call out sick for COVID-19 as the omicron variant spreads rapidly. There is a lingering pandemic effect of thousands of pilots who retired in early 2020, and now there’s not enough as travel rebounds.
During an earnings call on Thursday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian told investors that 100 to 200 pilots will be added to the roster every month into 2023.
By the second half of this year, the airline is “pretty confident” that it would restore flights that were cut in the first half, President Glen Hauenstein said on the call.
American has adjusted upcoming schedules “to mitigate any future travel disruptions” because of pilot shortages at regional carriers, a statement from the airline read.
Recently, United Airlines Holdings Inc said it would reduce its near-term flight schedule as 3,000 workers contracted COVID-19. Also, Alaska Air Group Inc. slashed flights by 10% in January as it struggled with staffing shortages.
Since Christmas Eve, staffing shortages and adverse weather conditions have canceled more than 20,000 flights, making this past holiday season one of the worst travel periods in years.
Reduced flights and staffing shortages will continue in the months ahead.