Jun 28, 2022 - News

Flight delays and airline staffing shortages hit Philadelphia

Illustration of an airplane on a runway shaped like a "no" symbol.
Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Philadelphia isn't immune to the labor pressures disrupting summer vacation plans across the country.

The big picture: Facing staffing shortages, airlines have been struggling to keep pace with a sudden upswing in demand, Axios' Nathan Bomey reports. Many are responding by cutting flights and reducing their commitments to regional airports.

  • And it's not just your Fourth of July trip that's in jeopardy. Some industry officials told Axios airline staff shortages could extend well into 2023.

Driving the news: On Monday, there were roughly 180 total delays and 27 cancellations at Philadelphia International Airport, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.

  • Over recent weeks, it’s become typical for more than a hundred flights to be delayed or canceled at PHL.
  • American Airlines announced last week it's ending two service routes from PHL into New York state due to a pilot shortage, effective Sept. 7.

Catch up fast: Airlines had two years and billions of dollars in federal aid to make sure they were ready for passengers.

  • Yes, but: The demand returned with a vengeance and many airlines don't have enough people to fly planes, serve passengers, or unload bags.
  • Meanwhile, travel rates are outpacing inflation.

By the numbers: Philadelphia International Airport expects 7.7 million passengers to travel through its terminals between June and August, which is just 18% below this period in 2019, its highest on record.

  • Travel may not be back to pre-pandemic levels, but it's 13% over this time last year.

What to watch: Some U.S. airlines are offering to boost their pay to attract or retain workers.

  • American's regional carriers Piedmont and Envoy, which both fly under the American Eagle brand, gave big raises to their pilots, including a temporary 50% pay hike through the end of August 2024.
  • American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said this month that the airline will offer bigger raises for its 14,000 mainline pilots.
  • Still, higher labor rates could accelerate a phaseout of small regional jets, which would leave small markets unconnected to large hub airports.
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