As air traffic continues to surge, a flight delay or cancelation can be expected in the crowded skies. But, that delay can not only be a headache, but a financial drain. We asked the experts for the their tips on what to do when your flight gets canceled.
Air travel disruptions are on the rise as the summer travel season kicks off. In recent weeks, severe weather has caused widespread flight cancellations and delays, particularly in the Northeast.
On Monday, June 26, more than 1,000 flights were canceled in the Northeast, including flights operated by Southwest, United, and JetBlue. The cancellations were due to a combination of thunderstorms, heavy rain, and high winds.
The disruptions follow Southwest’s winter meltdown. In December, the airline canceled upwards of 10,000 flights due to a combination of factors, including bad weather, air traffic control delays, and staffing shortages.
The recent disruptions have raised concerns about the ability of the airline industry to handle the volume of summer travel. Airlines for American (A4A), a trade association and lobbying group for airlines, projects U.S. airlines to call an all-time high 257 million passengers during the peak summer travel season from June 1 through August 31, 2023.
In a recent interview, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said that the airline industry is setting “unachievable” capacity goals for 2023.
“The system simply can’t handle the volume today, much less the anticipated growth,” said Kirby. “There are a number of airlines who cannot fly their schedules.”
With a shortage of trained air traffic controllers in the Northeast, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working through several projects to reduce congestion and delays.
Prior to the busy summer travel season, the FAA worked to reduce traffic by:
- Offering waivers for airlines to cut 10% of their flights at slot-controlled airports like New York’s LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark airports. At slot-controlled airports, airlines can lose a highly coveted flight slot if they do not utilize it on a continued basis.
- Opening up 169 new routes in the sky in the heavily traveled East Coast corridor.
- Working on training new air traffic controllers.
- Implementing a new system that is designed to better predict and manage traffic congestion.
If you are planning to fly this summer, it is important to be prepared for the possibility of delays or cancellations.
Why does it happen?
When the dominoes begin to fall for an airline, it can easily affect flights across the entire country.
The list of things that can go wrong is seemingly endless. Pilots are only able to fly a single type of aircraft. Crews have a maximum number of duty hours they can work in a day in addition to 12 hours of uninterrupted rest between duty periods. Aircraft can get out of position for their next flight and airports can run out of gate space. Many crews commute to their base city and a delay or cancellation of their flight to work could mean they aren’t there to fly yours.
Add in 1.73 million daily passengers and 5,400 aircraft in the sky at peak operational times and you very well may have the world’s most complex puzzle. The ability for an airline to appropriately respond to issues as they arise is the true test of an airline’s ability to navigate the complexities of the industry.
How do the carriers stack up?
The U.S. Department of Transportation produces a monthly report to assist consumers with information on the quality of service provided by airlines. This includes on-time arrivals, flight cancellations, mishandled baggage, oversales, official consumer complaints, and much more. A flight is counted as “on-time” if it arrives at the gate within 15 minutes of the published scheduled time.
What can I do?
When your flight gets canceled, it can be a frustrating and stressful experience. However, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the inconvenience and get to your destination as quickly as possible.
The system simply can’t handle the volume today, much less the anticipated growth. There are a number of airlines who cannot fly their schedules.
– Scott Kirby, United Airlines CEO
Where does your airline stack up in its customer service commitment?
The U.S. Department of Transportation has created a dashboard to ensure the traveling public has easy access to information about services that U.S. airlines provide to mitigate passenger inconveniences when the cause of a cancellation or delay was due to circumstances within the airline’s control.
Have an issue? Voice your complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation
Want to make a formal complaint regarding service you received? The U.S. Department of Transportation tracks formal consumer complaints in its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR). You can make a formal complaint regarding flight delays or cancelations, overbookings, disability, tarmac delays, baggage, discrimination, refunds, ticketing practices, family seating, etc.
Remember, the most important thing is to stay calm and communicate effectively with the airline staff. Following these steps can help you minimize the inconvenience of a canceled flight and get to your destination as quickly as possible.
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