Michigan’s summer travel could be upended if airlines can’t fix this problem


Romulus — Companies in the airline industry that slashed employment levels two years ago amid pandemic concerns are now heavily pushing to hire additional workers as travel demand climbs heading into the summer travel season. 

But a limited pilot pool and low unemployment rates will make it difficult to get staff fast to reduce travel disruptions like those seen during Memorial Day weekend, when more than 7,000 flights were canceled. Travel demand is expected to remain robust despite inflation continuing at a four-decade high.

More than a quarter of travelers plan to spend “significantly” more this summer over what they spent in 2019 on travel in part due to the higher prices but also because they have the savings to spend, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Travelers line check-in gates at the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport last week.

At the same time, U.S. airline industry employment has increased, while not quite rebounding to pre-pandemic levels. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry’s employee ranks rose from 705,628 in April 2021 to 751,165 in April 2022. Industry employment peaked in February 2020 at 753,382.

Flyers say delays and cancellations have become more common this year. Bikash Verma, 60, of Boston, who was flying through Detroit on Friday, was stuck in London in late April when computer problems at British Airways resulted in repeated cancellations of flights to his ultimate destination, Paris, he said.


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