U.S. domestic airlines have canceled 65,000 flights in the first half of 2008. That’s twice as man flights as were cancelled last year, and you can expect that number to grow in the coming months. Domestic airlines are expected to cut the number of flights by up to 15 percent during the next year, which is the biggest reduction in service since Sept. 11, 2001.
High fuel prices and a weak U.S. economy have caused air carriers to lose tens of millions of dollars each in the first half of this year. The airlines can’t reduce the cost of fuel, but they can cut personnel, and that’s what they’re doing. Pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, mechanics and maintenance workers are losing their jobs by the thousands across the country. Most companies are slashing the employment rosters by as much as ten percent this year and that number will continue to grow industry-wide into 2009.
What that means to those of us who will board an airplane in the months ahead, is that we’d better allow for plenty of delay time. Fewer workers means less on-time reliability. Airline systems use a hub and spoke operating model, and if things get delayed at key spokes, the hub becomes paralyzed.
In other words, published flight departures and arrivals are not likely to be met, so if you have a meeting that you simply can’t afford to miss in Atlanta, plan to endure a full travel day the day before, or be prepared to explain your absence. Equipment problems will be more frequent, and the planes that fly will be loaded.
Forget stand-by, unless you have nothing but time. Planes are going to be full on virtually every flight. Service will be bare bones, and airline employees will seem a bit frazzled.
One last thing … expect to pay significantly more for much less of everything than you are used to, and have a pleasant flight.
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