Trouble in the terminal: airlines scrambling to keep up with higher demand
PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - Friday was the busiest travel day of the year for the TSA. But a growing number of airline passengers, for both business and leisure, are forcing airlines into a situation they’re struggling to keep up with.
Between Friday and Saturday, TSA data says more than 3,000 flights were canceled. Experts point to a trio of contributing factors: More travelers than last year, a shortage of pilots, and a lack of aircraft. During the pandemic, many pilots were offered retirement packages or furloughed, didn’t return when the airlines need them back. That’s now leaving companies with visible staffing shortages, resulting in less flights and fewer options for those who need to travel.
Even before the pandemic started, industry experts say there were concerns over shrinking airline staff.
“You kind of have this rolling issue that keeps happening, and it’s not just pilots,” says Fran Strebing, the Deputy Director of Airports at Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington. “It’s what we’re seeing in society, and it’s everywhere. The staffing after COVID has been difficult.”
The impacts are the same locally, just to a different extent. At Peoria International Airport,
That’s now leaving airlines with a staff shortage, resulting in fewer flights to offer.
The director of Peoria International Airport says the impacts are the same locally. While local destinations provide spaces for the airlines to conduct business, the issues they face affects the airports. That includes the struggle to find pilots, which takes a long process to fully complete.
“You’re not gonna replace six thousand pilots in six months,” says Director of Airports Gene Olson. ”It’s gonna take years for that to happen.”
Olson adds airplanes grounded for a while have to undergo additional maintenance checks. That can take extra time, with a price tag of around $1 million in some cases.
Despite the race by airlines to catch up to current travel demands, slower revenue isn’t affecting them as much as it could.
“Grant opportunities that we got from the federal government have propped us up,” adds Olson. “So financially because of those grants, we’re in good shape.”
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