Rebound in demand and staff shortage

Unexpectedly, under the epidemic situation, the U.S. aviation industry still has a day when supply exceeds demand. On April 4 local time, Delta Airlines said it had been forced to cancel nearly 100 flights due to staff shortage, and had to cancel the restrictions on middle seats nearly a month in advance to release the additional capacity of flights still in operation.

For Delta, the challenge of staff shortage is not the first. In the past six months, due to the shortage of pilots, Delta Airlines has twice cancelled flights on a large scale. For example, during the Thanksgiving weekend, Delta Airlines cancelled nearly 600 flights. At that time, delta said that a large number of pilots were sick or quarantined due to the surge of new coronavirus infection.

As for the reason for the shortage, a delta spokesman said that part of the reason for the shortage was that a large number of employees needed to be vaccinated. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), pilots have to wait at least 48 hours after vaccination, which makes the crew scheduling more complicated.

In order to cope with the current shortage, we have to take the measure of cancelling flights again. In addition, the company also temporarily lifted the capacity limit of each flight, in order to make room for those passengers whose flights were cancelled. The middle seat group is expected to reopen on Tuesday before it is completely cancelled on May 1.

It’s not just delta that worries about this. Piedmont, the US regional airline, had a similar problem during the spring break when it asked pilots to reschedule their vaccination appointments.

Right now, aviation demand is rebounding. Civil aviation data analyst Li Hanming told Beijing Business Daily that if the number of people who have passed the security check is counted, the passenger flow of American Airlines is more than 60% of that in previous years. The average recovery rate is 62% in the latest week and 60% in the next two weeks, compared with 55% a month ago.

Vaccination against the new coronavirus has also begun to accelerate, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying last week that vaccinated individuals do not need to be tested for the new coronavirus and do not need to be quarantined when traveling in China.

However, in Li Hanming’s view, vaccination is not the main reason, “these days coincide with the Easter holiday in the United States, so there are some passenger flow.”.

Maya leibman, chief information officer of American Airlines, said recently that the company is now seeing “real business growth”. “Of course, we have a long way to go, but there is no doubt that the plane is leaving the hangar!”

The signs of recovery are clear. According to cirium fleet data in mid March, major U.S. and Regional Airlines currently operate about 5060 aircraft, accounting for 80% of the total, while another 20% of about 1300 aircraft are still in storage. By contrast, American Airlines had 4800 aircraft in operation at the beginning of this year, compared with about 3000 in mid April 2020.

For airlines, after experiencing “to dark 2020”, the rebound in demand is obviously positive. According to the statistics of airline for America, in 2020, the net loss of American passenger airlines is 35 billion US dollars, the year-on-year decrease of passenger revenue is 66.8%, and the total revenue of air transportation industry is 62.5%. Airlines will need several years to repay billions of US dollars of debt. The effect of vaccination is expected to be better in the United States aviation industry before 2023.

However, in the context of recovery, airlines are also beginning to find ways to deal with the coming challenges. After all, in the past, during the severe epidemic period, all major aviation departments “persuaded” many employees and cut many businesses. For example, Delta Airlines once persuaded nearly 2000 pilots to retire early.

For Delta’s response measures, Beijing Business Daily reporter contacted Delta, but as of press, no specific reply has been received.

On Thursday, internal e-mails showed that United Airlines told employees it would soon start recruiting hundreds of pilots.

Bryan Quigley, the company’s senior vice president of flight operations, said the company would start recruiting about 300 pilots. American Airlines even said it would resume all aircraft operations before May.

Li Hanming pointed out that there is a high probability that the domestic line will recover. Generally speaking, the domestic civil aviation demand of the United States and other countries without immigration control is gradually picking up, which is the general trend. The end of the year coincides with the Christmas peak, and the average is expected to return to 90% of the level in 2019 (excluding the international line) within a week. However, Li Hanming also mentioned that because some states in the United States are eager to gather, the recovery is unstable.

Beijing Business News (reporter Tao Feng, Tang Yitian)

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