Delta Air Lines says it has been forced to cut its schedule through August in order to “improve operational reliability” because the carrier is struggling to keep up with the “extreme demand” of customers returning to post-pandemic air travel.
The Atlanta-based airline hasn’t yet confirmed the number of flights set to be axed but an internal memo sent to staffers on Wednesday noted that the reductions would result in the number of planned aircraft hours being reduced by “several percentage points”.
Delta hopes to give customers several weeks’ notice of schedule changes but the airline has also decided to slash its Memorial Day weekend schedule with just days to spare. The airline did not say how many customers could be affected by the last-minute cancellations.
“The bottom line is this: We know there is extreme demand to fly a very full schedule, but we continue to adjust our network and other aspects of our operations to balance customer demand for Delta with the realities of our operating environment,” the memo explained.
“We’ve never rebuilt an airline before, so we’ll continue to assess, adjust and improve how we fly and how we support all of you entering this final stage of rebuilding,” the memo continued.
Delta slashed thousands of jobs at the height of the pandemic and is now struggling to keep up with customer demand. Other carriers, most notably JetBlue, have faced similar issues and have been forced to cut back on planned summer schedules.
Memorial Day weekend travel plans are already under pressure due to bad weather forecasts in the Southeast and Northeast. Delta has issued travel waivers traveling through 11 airports including its Atlanta hub.
Delta says a number of planned initiatives to improve its operational reliability are already in motion, including plans to increase the amount of time it takes to board an airplane.
In order to make that initiative more palatable to staff, the airline has taken the unprecedented decision to start paying flight attendants for boarding.
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Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.