The issue of airlines delaying or cancelling flights due to staffing or operational problems continues to plague the hard-hit air travel sector on a global scale.
Some temporary solutions to alleviate the pressure have been proposed, from London’s Heathrow announcing a crowd-controlling cap on the number of passengers allowed to fly from the airport to the Canadian government launching a portal that helps travellers explore their options when itineraries are impacted or luggage is lost.
In the United States, lawmakers have decided to get tough on the aviation industry by pushing for fines whenever a flight schedule is interrupted due to a staffing shortage.
Two U.S. senators on Tuesday (July 26) urged the U.S. Transportation Department to fine airlines that delay or cancel flights because of staffing or operational issues.
As reported by Reuters, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Alex Padilla asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a letter to take a harder line with airlines as a wave of flight cancellations tear into the summer season.
The department should use its authority “to impose fines designed to change airlines’ calculus about harming consumers to pad their own profits,” the senators wrote, noting Buttigieg can order airlines and ticket agents to stop unfair or deceptive practices and may issue fines of up to $37,377 per violation.
The U.S. Transportation Department can “take meaningful actions to hold airlines accountable for avoidable delays and cancellations.” And the department could issue “more concrete rules requiring airlines to offer refunds to passengers whose flights are delayed,” Warren and Padilla wrote.
Airlines for America, a trade group that represents Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others, said Tuesday U.S. airlines have scaled down capacity by 16 per cent and are “ramping up hiring initiatives and increasing communication with travelers” while addressing “a range of challenges, outside carrier control, such as inclement weather.”
A U.S. transport department spokesperson said Tuesday: “when airlines fail to meet their responsibilities, they will be held accountable” and noted the department had completed 10 airline investigations into delayed or withheld passenger refunds, according to Reuters.
Buttigieg told CNN Sunday that since meeting with airlines CEOs in June, carriers have upped their game.
“You look at cancellation rates for the last couple of travel weekends. They have been around 1.5 per cent, which is getting closer to normal,” Buttigieg said.
Canadian airlines have also trimmed their capacity, with Air Canada and WestJet both announcing cuts to their summer 2022 schedules earlier this month.
The Government of Canada has publicly-available information on passenger rights, which includes compensation payouts for flight delays, cancellations or lost luggage.
And claims are likely piling up. The issue of cancelled or delayed flights doesn’t seem to be improving much – at least at Toronto Pearson International Airport, Canada’s largest hub.
While the federal government says that wait times for security lines in the airport are decreasing, YYZ's take-off performance is whole other story as Pearson, just recently, placed first for the world’s worst international airport for flight delays in a recent ranking of major hubs.
According to data obtained by FlightAware on behalf of CNN, more than half of all scheduled flights from May 26 to July 19 — a massive 52.5 per cent — were delayed at YYZ.
During this same period, 6.5 per cent of flights were outright cancelled.