Reopening Pains Continue for Airlines in the United States
With vaccines widely available, travel has been coming back strong over the summer. While not quite at pre-pandemic levels, the airline industry is, financially at least, seeing a nice rebound. But passenger numbers don’t tell the whole story. There have been a number of growing pains – or “reopening pains” - from major airlines as they ramp up to serve the new surge of customers.
The most recent example is that of Spirit Airlines, which has canceled and delayed many flights over the summer. On a single Monday, the Florida-based carrier canceled 233 flights, which was 30% of its total scheduled flights for the day. And that was following up a Sunday where the airline canceled 165 flights.
So many cancellations at a single airport caused absolute chaos at the terminal and the customer service counters. One traveler told USA Today that it looked like “a hurricane shelter.”
In one incident, Spirit Airlines canceled five flights that were all set to arrive at the Myrtle Beach International Airport. Along with those five flights, one flight departing Myrtle Beach was also canceled.
Spirit is known for being inexpensive, but this comes at a cost of various amenities and benefits offered to passengers by other airlines. An additional hit to the customer experience could be devastating to Spirit’s public perception.
Spirit Airlines offered the following statement to WMBF News:
We’re working around the clock to get back on track in the wake of some travel disruptions over the weekend due to a series of weather and operational challenges. We needed to make proactive cancellations to some flights across the network, but the majority of flights are still scheduled as planned.
We understand how frustrating it is for our Guests when plans change unexpectedly, and we’re working to find solutions. We ask Guests to actively monitor their emails and flight status before heading to the airport.
As a team, we strive every day to get our Guests where they need to go on time. Our focus will continue to be on taking care of our Guests.
Spirit is Not Alone
Reopening pains have stricken more than just Spirit. Southwest Airlines has also canceled and delayed flights. In June and July, Southwest’s on-time performance was about 15% worse than the same months in 2019. And although the carrier prefers not to book many late-night flights, delays have made this a necessity.
American Airlines had some reopening pains of their own, particularly in June when they cut about 1,000 flights from their July schedule.