After yet another weekend of widespread flight cancellations or delays, a U.K.-based flight attendant has described the scenario for overworked flight crews as “completely unsustainable as a job.”
That means the chaos for stressed-out travelers trying to get from point A to point B is perhaps the new normal. Hiring in the airline industry in the post-pandemic environment has reportedly not kept up with consumer demand, the latter of which has spiked during the summer vacation season.
More than 1,000 U.S. flights were canceled as storms rolled into the East Coast on Friday and more travel disruptions continued into Saturday and the weekend.
Friday saw the cancelation of 1,142 flights within, into or out of the U.S. and another 3,944 flights faced delays, according to Daily Mail which cited statistics from the flight status tracking site, FlightAware. “Canceled flights on Saturday were totaled at 657 and had nearly doubled that number on Sunday by 8 p.m. with as many as 912 flights canceled and 6,512 delayed,” the outlet reported.
British flight attendant Kris Major, who is a union official, told CNN Travel that the current situation is “absolutely shambolic.”
Lufthansa flight attendant Daniel Kassa Mbuambi, also a union rep, explained to the news outlet that “The lack of staff, delays, cancellations, no baggage — I think it’s a very difficult situation for everybody.”
Flight attendant Allie Malis, who represents an American Airlines union, echoed these concerns.
“There’s some kind of breakdown happening that I believe should be preventable. Sometimes the passengers are cheering that you’re arriving because it means their plane’s going to go, or even that they’re upset — they think it’s your fault that the flight has been delayed when you can’t work two flights at once, although I’m sure the airlines wish we could…Why would anyone want to apply to be a flight attendant or any other airline worker when we’re kind of getting worked to the bone?”
American Airlines cutting service to cities amid pilot shortage https://t.co/PrgtE6DKwe
— michelekirkBPR (@michelekirkBPR) June 21, 2022
“We, as flight attendants, we’re right there with our passengers, we’re in it with them, we feel their frustrations firsthand, if not even more because this has happened to us so frequently since we fly for a living,” she asserted.
Reacting to a claim from the airline industry that staff absenteeism is contributing to the disruption, Malis added that “Flight attendants are being maxed out, working the longest days we’ve had, with the shortest rest periods overnight that we’ve had and that does get you sick, that does lead to exhaustion and fatigue and weakens your immune system.”
All three airline workers quoted in the article maintain that a revamp of the current structure offers a long-term solution.
According to the Daily Mail, “Many airlines cut back and have operated with a skeleton staff for the better part of the last two years due to the pandemic. But now that travel demand is back, the airline industry is struggling to keep up.”
Given the difficult working conditions, some flight attendant unions are seeking a pay boost for their members.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed new rules that would make it easier for dissatisfied airline customers to get their money back.
“Airlines would be required to refund travelers if a flight’s departure or arrival time shifts by three hours or more for a domestic flight, and six hours more for an international flight and the traveler no longer wants to fly,” the Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Back in June, a Southwest Airlines pilot implied that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is the source of the problem in the airline industry.
“The question is, why are we having a staffing shortage? I believe it’s still because of the COVID vaccines — they’re still requiring the vaccination for all new applicants, and if the new applicants say that they’re not going to get vaccinated, their application is passed over,” Tom Bogart, the president of the grassroots employee organization Southwest Freedom Flyers Inc., told NewsNation.
“So you have highly qualified applicants who want to work here at the airline and the airline’s passing them over. I think it still stems back to that. People like to forget about that. The [Biden] executive order is not dead.”
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