Airline cancellations and delays have plagued Logan International Airport and airports nationwide this season as carriers struggle with staffing and other issues.
In a letter sent to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg this week, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., said air travel has grown worse over the past year and urged Buttigieg to hold the airline industry accountable.
“After receiving tens of billions of dollars in assistance from American taxpayers, major airlines have reciprocated by dramatically increasing ticket prices and reaching new lows in their treatment of travelers,” the senators wrote.
The senators noted in their letter that one in five flights has been late this year and airlines have canceled flights four times more during high-travel weekends than in 2019, and added that nearly 122,000 flights have been canceled so far in 2022 — more than in all of 2021.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby recently told CNBC that the airline industry will gradually get better but “we’re not going to get back to normal utilization and normal staffing levels until next summer.”
Here’s the latest locally relevant information on the situation at Boston’s Logan International Airport. (This post will be updated as new information is available.)
Delays and cancellations at Logan Airport:
Thursday brought 6,561 flight delays and 695 cancellations across the U.S., according to flight-tracking website FlightAware, including 461 delays and 71 cancellations at Logan Airport. On Friday, the site reported 2,214 delays and 208 cancellations nationwide, including 119 delays and 23 cancellations at Logan Airport by 1 p.m.
Logan Airport has tweeted several construction advisories recently, including information about lane closures and detours and “increased congestion” during Sumner Tunnel closures. Since June 10, the Sumner Tunnel closes every weekend from 11 p.m. on Fridays to 5 a.m. on Mondays.The closures will continue for 36 weeks, excluding holidays, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
MassDOT offered the following advice for Logan Airport travelers during Sumner Tunnel closures:
To reduce traffic congestion during tunnel closures, MassDOT encourages those traveling to or from Logan Airport to leave their cars at home and explore Massport’s list of transportation options to and from Logan, which include: the Blue Line or Silver Line, the Logan Express, or the Logan Water Taxi. If you are traveling to or from the airport, allow for extra travel time because of the anticipated heavy congestion.MassDOT
The Transportation Security Administration screened 2.4 million people at airport security checkpoints nationwide on July 1, the highest since Feb. 2020.
JetBlue, Logan’s largest carrier, tweeted that Sumner Tunnel closures and roadway construction could add to travel delays in Boston. The airline advised passengers to arrive at Logan three hours before an international flight and two hours before a domestic flight.
The carrier posted the following alert on its website for travelers impacted by delays or cancellations:
We always want your travel experience to be as smooth as possible, but we know there are times when things don’t go as planned. Below are some helpful resources so you can stay up to date.
Check your flight status for the most current info.
Get info about delays, cancellations and schedule changes.
See info about Air Traffic Control programs currently issued by the Federal Aviation AdministrationJetBlue
Why are there so many delays and cancellations?
Nationwide, airports and airlines are facing challenges.
“Everyone is having problems dealing with the combinations of not enough staff, not enough equipment, and all sorts of weather problems, and it’s been really rough,” Charlie Leocha, president and co-founder of Travelers United, told the Today Show.
In the July 25 letter to Buttigieg, Warren and Padilla noted that 41 percent of flights are delayed for reasons that airlines can control and the Department of Transportation can fine airlines up to $37,377 for unfair and deceptive practices that include delays, cancellations, and involuntary re-bookings.
The letter also asked the Department of Transportation to “use its full statutory authority more vigorously to address increasing consolidation and dwindling competition in our airline industry, which represents serious harms to the public interest,” mentioning JetBlue’s “anticompetitive” Northeast Alliance with American Airlines and talks of Spirit’s merger. JetBlue announced on Thursday that it has agreed to buy Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion.
In a June 24 letter to Buttigieg, Airlines for America said U.S. airlines have taken steps to improve issues with delays and cancellations by cutting 15 percent of summer flights, stepping up hiring and training programs, and offering more flexibility for itinerary changes. The group accused the FAA of not having enough air traffic controllers.
“The majority of cancellations and the majority of delays have nothing to do with air traffic control staffing,” Buttigieg told Lester Holt. “But when there is an issue, we’re working that issue.”
“Often we’re hearing the lack of a pilot ready to go cited as an issue or a problem that is contributing to a delay or a cancellation. That is part of what was supposed to be avoided by offering all of this tax payer money to these airlines,” he said.
Many pilots retired during the pandemic, too.
“The biggest challenge that faces us for the next 12 months is all the infrastructure challenges around aviation,” Kirby, CEO of United, told CNBC, noting the problems at Heathrow Airport and air traffic control issues.
“The system just can’t support our flying,” he said, adding that his airline has reduced capacity until it can.