Airlines for America (A4A) and CQ Roll Call yesterday hosted the 2023 Summer Travel Summit. A4A projects U.S. airlines to carry an all-time high 257 million passengers from June 1-August 31, 2023.
Despite having to trim schedules, U.S. airlines will be able to accommodate demand by using larger aircraft. In fact, year over year, U.S. airlines are adding 297,000 seats per day to accommodate 243,000 more passengers per day.
The current environment
The US airline and air travel industry has faced a number of problems in 2022-23, including:
Labor shortages: The pandemic led to widespread layoffs in the airline industry, and many workers have not returned. This has led to shortages of pilots, flight attendants, and other essential workers, which has caused flight cancellations and delays.
Rising fuel prices: The price of jet fuel has increased significantly in recent months, which has added to the cost of air travel. Airlines have passed on some of these costs to passengers in the form of higher fares, but this has made air travel less affordable for many people.
Weather-related disruptions: The weather has also caused problems for the airline industry in 2022-23. Winter storms and other inclement weather have caused flight cancellations and delays.
Airport congestion: Airports are also facing congestion problems, which is contributing to flight delays. This is due to a number of factors, including increased passenger traffic, staffing shortages, and construction projects.
Addressing the current issues whilst discussing the 2023 summer outlook, Nicholas E. Calio, A4A President and CEO said:
“U.S. airlines have been hiring aggressively for positions across the industry. We now have the most workers we’ve had in 20 years.”
“Airlines also are reducing their flight schedules to accommodate current realities, including the FAA’s air traffic controller staffing shortages.”
“It has been said time and time again that the U.S. is the gold standard for aviation safety. We take pride in that, and we work hard at that every single day.”
A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich presented a summer outlook, followed by a panel discussion.
Is the industry prepared for peak season?
“Airlines are doing everything they can to prepare for this peak season,” said Heimlich. “Roughly 487,000 full-time equivalent workers at U.S passenger airlines. That number is definitely above the pre-pandemic level. It is also the highest number since October 2001.”
“We want this summer to be a summer in which we are achieving our best operational reliability. It’s in our interest to make sure that our customers are treated right and have a good experience because we compete for their repeat business,” said A4A Senior Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Policy Sharon Pinkerton.
“I don’t necessarily think pulling down flights is a sustainable approach for the long term,” Pinkerton observed all.
“TSA is definitely prepared,” said TSA Assistant Administrator for Strategic Communications and Public Affairs Alexa Lopez.
“Last weekend, we hit a record, screening the highest number of passengers screened since the beginning of the pandemic, and we expect this summer to be our busiest. Our staffing levels are much better thanks to finally securing better pay for all TSA employees.”