Barb was in Portland last weekend. She’d taken a 10-day swing to the coast to see friends and take a break from the 100+ degree heat of our “beloved” desert home.
She made reservations for flights and rental cars along her two-state route way in advance. She’s an inveterate traveler. Knows the best travel sites and how to create a well-planned itinerary. Which, in this case, she did.
So, last weekend, she was in the City of Roses visiting an old friend. (Sorry about the ‘old,’ Princess). Good restaurants and good conversation.
She got a surprise text Sunday morning. It was someone from American Airlines, texting her the Sunday afternoon flight home to Phoenix had been canceled and she was rescheduled - without her knowledge or permission - for a flight of the same number two-days later.
After the text, her natural instinct kicked in. She (and her friend) did a little research about American Airlines and found a story about national flight cancellations on CNN. American and other carriers were mentioned.
My guess - being the weekend and newsrooms were staffed by less than the first team - folks just used the handout as a basis for reporting and “went with it.”
The “story” was that more than two-million weekend flying folks across the country were subject to dozens and dozens of flight cancellations. In addition, last Sunday marked the fifth day of that week that the volume of passengers per-day totaled more than two-million. So, some folks needless, to say, were left stranded. Barb had the good fortune to be staying with her friend. But, for thousands of others, it was back to the credit card, paying for a couple more nights on the road.
The “story” said all the furor was because of a” lack of pilots and crews.” Seems, after massive layoffs due to Covid - including pilots - many of those pilots had been put into retraining programs for other aircraft. So, they weren’t available for all the previously scheduled 727 routes.
There was also some gobble-de-gook about “unprecedented weather problems” affecting flights, causing delays and crew problems.
That part of the “story” about weather is somewhat believable. At Sky Harbor in Phoenix, we’ve had some of that “unprecedented” weather with consistent, very high temperatures. Last week broke some records with daily 115-117 temps. The higher the readings, the less air “lift” there is for planes to get airborne. So, that means fewer passengers and less cargo. And we can’t have that, can we? But, it happens here. Every year.
The crux of the” story,” seems to me, to be about problems the airlines created for themselves. Of course, they won’t admit it. But, evidence of “self-inflicted” wounds is pretty strong.
Last Spring, when Covid-19 was wreaking havoc on this nation, airlines scooped up billions of federal dollars to help them stay in business. Which they did - at full strength - for about 90 days. Then, they started laying off personnel - including pilots - by the thousands and moth-balling aircaft here in the desert and at other sites in California, Texas and Nevada.
One of those sites is about 40 miles from my keyboard. Check the location by satellite and you’ll see row after row of planes, all ready to be reactivated at a moment’s notice. Ready for flight status. That was the whole idea. Reactivate quickly as needed. Which, apparently, hasn’t happened or there wouldn’t have been millions of stranded flyers.
The nation’s airlines took billions in handouts to keep going, which they did for three months. Then, they fired thousands (“layoffs” they said), to be recalled in better times.
Well, these are “better times.” At least “better” then they were in the depths of the pandemic. Conditions have improved for most of us. Certainly for nearly all businesses. Including airlines.
So, seeing daily increases in passenger numbers, more people scheduling and actually traveling for the last 90 days or so, why the cancellations? Why are the airlines saying these problems will last into “mid-July?” Why are those planes still sitting on the ground? Why haven’t we seen flight crews reactivated or rehired?
Dollars! Pure and simple. If you can keep all passenger seats filled, the dollars roll in. If you can operate with “skeleton” crews, less people on the payroll, fewer crews to pay. Dollars. If you can realign flight routes from point-to-point, lower operating costs. Dollars!
Why is it, every time big business has a problem, we consumers take it in the shorts? Why do we - by the millions - have our lives upset and have to pick up the costs? Why can’t airlines deal with their internal problems without adding difficulties for millions of flyers who have to cough up more dollars and suffer the delays? Dollars!
I sincerely wish the media - all of ‘em - would read the handout, then do some research - as reporters are supposed to do - before passing on half-baked “information” as gospel. I don’t give a damn if it’s the weekend crew or Wolf Blitzer. A few minutes doing a little digging around can’t be all that hard to do. Even on Saturday and Sunday. Some Google time just looking at Southeast California, Southern Arizona, Southern Nevada and West Texas from a satellite can be very informative.
You’ll learn a lot more than what’s in that damned handout.