Delta Air Lines is lauded as the gold standard of operational reliability, an airline which runs on time and does not cancel flights. But as Delta faces Thanksgiving and its busiest week of the year, it is cancelling hundreds of flights. Is this poor planning on the part of Delta or a deliberate and coordinated move by employees to send a message?
Why Is Delta Cancelling Hundreds Of Flights At The Last-Minute On Thanksgiving?
The numbers are abysmal. At press time, Delta has already cancelled 254 flights today. That accounts for 17% of its overall flight schedule. Yesterday, it cancelled 95 flights. Tomorrow it has already cancelled 135 flights (and 25 thus far on Saturday).
What is going on? Is Delta merging lightly-filled flights? Labor issues?
A Delta spokesperson did not shed much light:
“Delta teams are working diligently to prevent flight cancellations this week. A number of factors have pressured our ability to timely staff several dozen scheduled flights on Wednesday. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers.
“If a flight is canceled or significantly rescheduled by Delta, customers are proactively contacted with new flight details and have the options of adjusting their new booking, receiving eCredit for future travel or seeking a refund. The vast majority of customers are being rebooked for a flight during the same travel day.”
This forces me to speculate, which I do cautiously, but not without basis.
On Wednesday, pilots voted for pay cuts in a deal which now precludes furloughs until January 01, 2022. Per Reuters:
The 1,713 Delta pilots, who were expected to be furloughed on Nov. 28, will now receive a partial pay of 30 hours a month along with medical benefits and vacation accrual, while they stay off their jobs.
With jobs protected, could it be that pilots simply decided to call in sick? It seems counterintuitive considering pilots overwhelming ratified the compromise and no jobs will be lost, but it could be an expression of resentment over the pay cuts coming to all pilots.
What about flight attendants? The Association of Flight Attendants has aggressively pushed workers to unionize for years. Up until this point it has failed. Nevertheless, it has a relatively strong cadre of support within the airline. Could hundreds of flights attendants have called in sick in a move that will either push Delta to make more concessions or push forward unionization efforts?
Or could it be that pilots and flight attendants simply weighed the risk and decided it was not worthwhile to put themselves and their families at risk by operating during a time in which planes are expected to be full (although Delta is still blocking middle seats into 2021)?
Another option could be that Delta was sloppy in crew scheduling. After seeking and obtaining so many voluntary furloughs, early separations, and retirements, Delta may simply not have the manpower to staff a full schedule for Thanksgiving week, traditionally the busiest week of the year. It would not be alone…American Airlines is experiencing the same issues, though is not cancelling nearly as many flights.
Finally, it could simply be that demand for flights did not materialize and Delta is consolidating service. That is so far removed from Delta’s historic playbook that I cannot imagine that would be a cause, especially as Delta admitted that crew scheduling issues were at play.
Whatever the root cause, thousands of Delta customers are stranded today, with many holiday plans likely ruined.
It’s a very un-Delta like week for Delta. The carrier that prides itself on no mainline cancellations and unassailable operational reliability is not putting on its best look during this traditionally busiest travel week of the year.
Did Delta strand you today? Let us know how Delta re-accomodated you in the comment section below.