Although the problems this weekend are mainly limited to Southwest Airlines, it is by no means the only airline that has worked hard to restore personnel and flights during the pandemic. Solving these problems will be expensive and time-consuming-and may cause further pain for passengers returning to the sky.
Southwest Airlines said there were many reasons for the cancellation of weekend flights, including bad weather and a minor issue at the Jacksonville Air Traffic Control Center in Florida. But these minor issues have little impact on other airlines. Southwest Airlines admitted to its employees on Monday that because the airline did not have enough staffing, the situation over the weekend was out of control.
Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said in a video recorded to employees: “We still haven’t achieved the staffing we want, especially our flight crew.” The transcript of the recording has been shared with CNN.
“In this environment, we just need more staffing buffers to deal with unexpected situations, and we are introducing new employees every day,” he said.
Compared with before the pandemic, the airline’s current headcount has decreased by approximately 7,000. Its most recent number of employees was reported to the Ministry of Transportation in August and was 54,500, which was lower than the nearly 61,300 employees in August 2019.
Worries about holiday travel
Tajer said the union is particularly concerned about how airlines will respond to the surge in passengers during Thanksgiving and December holidays.
“We want the flight to be completed, but we don’t want to sell tickets that cannot be redeemed,” he said. “They bite more, can they chew?”
Philip Bagley, chief credit analyst at Standard & Poor’s Airlines, predicts that these issues will not be resolved soon.
Bagley said: “The airlines are trying to get through a difficult period. They have reduced a considerable number of personnel during the pandemic. Now they are increasing, and the demand situation is somewhat uncertain.” “Of course this is not unique to Southwest Airlines. The problem. It’s a bit like a supply chain problem that has been disclosed elsewhere.”
Pilots of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have planned to set up information picket lines at major airports later this year to emphasize their dissatisfaction with the way the airline operates. Pickets that do not represent strikes or other work actions are scheduled for every week of American Airlines for the next three weeks.
SAPA President Casey Murray said: “For other airlines, this is a small temporary incident that destroyed Southwest Airlines because our operations have become fragile and large-scale failures will occur under the slightest pressure. “Our pilots were tired and frustrated because our operations were empty due to lack of company support.”
Southwest Airlines insists that it is doing everything it can to support its employees and provide accommodation for tens of thousands of passengers affected by the crisis. This includes cutting down its flight schedule to ensure it has the necessary staff.
Van der Wynn said the airline “has greatly reduced our previously published flight schedules for November and December, and if we think we need to do more, we will do so.”
But Murray told CNN that more hiring and more flight cancellations are not the answer.
“We don’t want the company to cancel flights. We don’t want the company to hire more people to fill the inefficient scheduling process,” he said. “Until the company corrects some of the problems with how they arrange and reschedule pilots and flight attendants, we will continue to see these problems next week and holidays. This is what we hope to avoid.”
Murray denied weekend rumors that the staff shortage was caused by some kind of “sick leave” caused by Southwest Airlines pilots being dissatisfied with operations or the airline’s recently announced requirement that all employees must be vaccinated against the new coronavirus.
“Our prevalence is in line with this summer’s level,” Murray said, adding that the number of pilots registered for flights is as high as ever.