In addition to existing problems evolving from the coronavirus pandemic, travelers to and from Israel this summer face major challenges.
Three major US airlines who fly routes to and from Israel have been forced to cancel hundreds of flights this past weekend; the cancelations are projected to continue through July.
American Airlines cited what it said were “significant” labor shortages and maintenance issues. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are also facing a pilot shortage.
This past Saturday the airline canceled 123 flights. The next day it canceled about 190 flights, altogether about six percent of the company’s mainline schedule – including three percent of its total flights — according to multiple reports. On Monday at least 106 flights were canceled.
The airline cited a shortage of pilots to fly its A320 and 737 aircraft. The company fired 1,200 of its 15,000 pilots last year due to the pandemic but is now desperately trying to rehire them back.
Some flights were also blamed on staff calling in sick; some aircraft were grounded due to maintenance issues as well.
In addition to those shortages the company faces problems with its catering and fueling contractors and wheelchair operators.
The airline told ABC News that about one percent of its schedule — some 50 to 80 daily flight cancelations — are projected to continue through July. The total could reach as many as 3,000 cancelations.
““The bad weather, combined with the labor shortages some of our vendors are contending with and the incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand, has led us to build in additional resilience and certainty to our operation by adjusting a fraction of our scheduled flying through mid-July,” said the airline in a statement.
“We made targeted changes with the goal of impacting the fewest number of customers by adjusting flights in markets where we have multiple options for re-accommodation,” the airline said in a statement.
Customers are to be notified by the airline if their flights are cancelled, and will be provided with the opportunity to rebook on alternative flights via its app.
Thousands of American Airlines employees were offered early retirements and buyouts when the travel industry ground to a halt in March 2020, leaving vacancies yet to be filled, ABC reported.
American Airlines alone lost $9.5 billion in 2020. Still, the airline is scheduling more flights than its competitors: its July schedule is about 20 percent busier than that of United Airlines or Delta.
The US airline industry in total lost $35 billion last year.
United and Delta airlines – the other two US airlines who fly routes to the State of Israel – are also facing problems, according to the report.
The US Transportation Security Administration is trying to hire 6,000 new officers to handle the summer rush; those who accept a job with the agency are being offered $1,000 each.