According to the Devner Post, “if thunderstorms hit this summer, airline travel could be a string of hassles and delays” all over again. Many airlines are leaner and operating fuller flights, while some carriers’ pilots and other employees are butting heads with management over executive compensation and labor contracts. Meanwhile, federal officials are trying to work with an aging air-traffic-control system,” the paper writes.
“We’re very concerned about this summer’s airline schedule,” John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, says to the Post. “I believe it’s going to be as bad as the summer of 2000.” Prater points out that many airlines have replaced bigger planes with more-frequent flights on smaller aircraft. That, he says, makes problems more likely. “You’ve got more business jets in the air, and you’ve got an air-traffic-control system that has not been modernized. There’s not any more runways. … That combination is not good for our industry,” he says.
Airlines, on the other hand, say they’re staffed to handle the always-busy summer travel season. At United, which set its record in March by filling 85% of its seats for the month, spokeswoman Jean Medina tells the Post that the carrier is “staffed to meet the travel needs of our customers.” Linda Rawlings, owner of Denver travel agency Travel Advocate, isn’t so sure. She’s going as far as to recommend customers pad itineraries with several extra days to guard against the possibility of flight disruptions. “There really isn’t any give in the system,” Rawlings tells the Post. “If a flight cancels out, you used to be able to say, ‘Oh, well, it’s no problem. We’ll just move you to the next one.’ Well, the next one is full. And none of the carriers want to move you to a different airline.”