U.S. Airlines Expect Record-Setting Summer Travel Season Despite Fewer Planes and Fewer Pilots

By Kurt Stolz on 15 May 2024
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An American Airlines 777-300ER en route to London

The U.S. airline industry is forecasting another strong summer travel season despite shortage of aircraft and a number of furloughed pilots.

Some 271 million people are expected to travel on U.S. carriers during the summer travel season – which runs from June 1 through August 31.

Globally, the number of air travelers is predicted to reach a record 4.7 billion, a 4.4% increase from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

The prospect of a busy summer season presents unique logistical challenges to the beleaguered airline industry in the United States given the grounding of Boeing 737-9 Max jets following the Alaska Airlines incident.

On January 5, 2024, a 60-pound “door plug” blew out from a nearly new Boeing 737 MAX 9 in flight at 16,000 feet, leaving a gaping hole in the fuselage.

Airlines have scrambled to find comparable replacement jetliners from Airbus and Embraer and are even offering to pay inflated leasing prices. The lack of sufficient aircraft has resulted in the furlough of pilots, a suspension of hiring of new pilots, and suspension of flights to less lucrative destinations.

At the same time, the Department of Transportation enacted a new rule requiring airlines to automatically provide a full refund to passengers whose flights are cancelled, delayed, or changed.

Of the major U.S. carriers, all are expecting an increase in their load factors. American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, is expecting 72 million flyers this summer on 690,000 flights, with 10% more departures than in the summer of 2023.

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have also predicted higher numbers as well.

(Photo: Accura Media Group

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