By RICHIE MALOUF
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) — Delta Airlines will allow travelers to change flights over the Fourth of July weekend at no cost, saying it expects an increase in traveler numbers not seen since before the pandemic.
This week’s announcement comes as Americans continue to face flight cancellations and delays around the country amid ongoing airline industry issues. (So far, there has been little impact on the Santa Barbara Airport.)
After receiving $25 billion in federal aid last year, airlines continue to struggle to keep up with increasing traveler numbers as flights continually get canceled and delayed.
According to FlightAware, there already have been roughly 15,000 flight delays and more than 2,000 cancellations by Wednesday afternoon.
Airlines such as American Airlines attribute these setbacks to an ongoing pilot shortage.
“We have noted that we have 100 regional aircraft on the ground that we want to fly but can’t due to lack of regional pilots,” spokesperson Brian Metham said. “Like many network carriers, American has reduced our regional flying in recent months in response to the regional pilot shortage.”
Unlike other airlines, however, Southwest Airlines says they are not experiencing any pilot shortage issue.
“Currently, Southwest is not experiencing a shortage of pilots,” said spokesman Chris Perry. “In fact, Southwest received approximately 3,000 applications for the 120 First Officer positions hired in 2021. We are on track to hire about 1,200 pilots in 2022.”
Air Line Pilots Association, a pilot union, claimed there is no pilot shortage and argued that the real reason behind the issues arising in the airline industry is its profit-driven business models.
“The United States is producing a record number of pilots, yet some are still trying to claim we need to weaken aviation safety rules to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” said ALPA president Capt. Joe DePete. “Some airlines are trying to distract from their profit-first business decisions to cut service with the fictitious claim that there is a lack of available pilots.”