Delta Air Lines used to be known for its operational excellence, but the Atlanta-based airline now can’t seem to consistently run its scheduled operation on holidays. What’s going on?
Delta canceling dozens of flights over Easter
Delta has so far canceled 74 flights today, compared to five cancelations at American and one cancelation at United. It’s expected that these operational issues will continue at least into tomorrow, so don’t expect flights to be back to normal tomorrow.
That’s a significant number of cancelations, though what makes this worse is that Delta seems to be making a ritual of having issues over holidays. Delta had a Thanksgiving meltdown with over 600 cancelations, which it essentially blamed on coronavirus. Then Delta also canceled dozens of flights over Christmas. And now there’s Easter…
Delta temporarily suspends seat blocking
Delta is the only major US airline to consistently block seats in all cabins, and we know that the airline will end this policy on May 1, 2021. Well, for Sunday and Monday, Delta will lift its current seat blocking policy, to be able to accommodate as many customers as possible.
I see both sides here, but my gosh this is bad form:
- On the one hand, if you’re going to have huge operational issues I can appreciate that the priority is getting as many people onto planes as possible; Delta claims that an “overwhelming” number of people have been rebooked for same day travel
- On the other hand, many people go out of their way to book Delta and even pay extra because of this seat blocking policy
Delta needs to do something substantial and proactive for those who aren’t getting an empty seat next to them as promised, given that this has been a point of differentiation for the airline.
Why is Delta having operational issues?
Delta claims that these cancelations are due to “various factors,” including:
- Large numbers of employee vaccinations
- Pilots returning to active status
On the most basic level this comes down to a shortage in pilot staffing:
- Due to the huge number of pilots who have retired and taken early-outs, pilots are having to be retrained on new aircraft, and that’s not an overnight process
- Delta doesn’t have enough pilots to fly the right kinds of planes, in particular narrow body aircraft
- Under normal circumstances that’s not an issue, but when Delta tries to increase capacity for the holidays, that’s where it becomes problematic
- This issue is exacerbated by Delta’s seat blocking policy, which allows the airline to only offer significantly less capacity than competitors
To be clear, it’s totally fair if Delta isn’t in a position to add capacity, and is spread too thin. The question is why the airline keeps over-scheduling itself — this is the third time this has happened over a holiday. The airline promised to learn after Thanksgiving, but it still hasn’t.
Delta is having some significant operational issues over Easter, as the airline has canceled dozens of flights due to an ongoing pilot shortage. To accommodate as many passengers as possible, the airline is also suspending its typical seat blocking policy.
Obviously it’s a tough time for airlines in terms of scheduling and staffing, but this is the third time Delta has been in a situation like this since late last year, while American and United haven’t. What’s going on?
Can anyone make sense of why Delta isn’t learning from its mistakes? Were any OMAAT readers impacted by these operational issues?
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)