Smooth Skies Ahead: Expert Lee Abbamonte on the Decline of Flight Cancellations
Smooth Skies Ahead: Expert Lee Abbamonte on the Decline of Flight Cancellations - Fewer Disruptions Mean Happier Travelers
The past few years have been turbulent for air travel. Between the pandemic, labor shortages, and inclement weather, flights have been disrupted at unprecedented rates. This has led to countless canceled trips, missed connections, and frustrated travelers.
However, there are signs that smoother skies may be ahead. Data shows that flight cancellations have declined in recent months. Major U.S. airlines canceled 2.5% of scheduled flights in November 2022, down from 3.1% in October. That may not seem like a huge drop, but it represents real progress.
Fewer canceled flights directly translate to happier travelers. Ariana, 32, learned that firsthand. She was scheduled to fly from Los Angeles to New York City last summer, but her flight was scrapped at the last minute amid mass cancellations. “It was so stressful and disappointing,” she recalls. “I had to completely cancel my long-planned trip to see friends and family.”
Months later, she tried again, this time with no issues. “My flights went perfectly smooth. It was such a relief!” she says. “I finally got to enjoy my vacation hassle-free.”
Cancelations deprive travelers of anticipated vacations, special events, important meetings, and precious time with loved ones. When flights operate as planned, people feel more confident booking trips knowing their plans won’t unravel over factors beyond their control.
Reliability also enables travelers to maximize precious vacation days. Darren, 41, has chronicled how each canceled flight whittled away his family’s week-long trip to Hawaii. “Between rebooking delayed flights and losing days to ‘trip interruption’ policies, we ended up with just 3 days in Hawaii rather than 7. It was so disappointing for all of us.”
Minimizing cancellations helps vacationers like Darren’s family make the most of their limited time off. Travelers want to spend their trips sightseeing, relaxing, and bonding with loved ones - not stressed in airports or on hold with airlines.
What else is in this post?
- Smooth Skies Ahead: Expert Lee Abbamonte on the Decline of Flight Cancellations - Fewer Disruptions Mean Happier Travelers
- Smooth Skies Ahead: Expert Lee Abbamonte on the Decline of Flight Cancellations - Airlines Invest in Operations and Infrastructure
- Smooth Skies Ahead: Expert Lee Abbamonte on the Decline of Flight Cancellations - Weather Prediction Technology Advances Reduce Surprises
- Smooth Skies Ahead: Expert Lee Abbamonte on the Decline of Flight Cancellations - Plane Manufacturers Prioritize Reliability
Smooth Skies Ahead: Expert Lee Abbamonte on the Decline of Flight Cancellations - Airlines Invest in Operations and Infrastructure
These investments directly combat some of the primary culprits behind cancellations. Staffing shortages, for example, played a major role in scrapping flights over the past two years. Airlines simply lacked sufficient employees to operate their ambitious schedules.
Carriers received the message loud and clear. They've prioritized hiring, training, and retaining staff. American Airlines aims to hire 18,000 employees in 2022 alone. Delta plans to add 15,000 workers over the next two years.
Upgrading technology is another key investment. Alaska Airlines recently finished deploying a new crew management system. The tool optimizes scheduling to ensure appropriate staffing. It also helps reassign workers on the fly when issues emerge.
American Airlines is aggressively refreshing its fleet with extensive maintenance this year. The work spans repairs, component replacements, and cosmetic improvements. It aims to avoid a canceled flight due to a maintenance lapse.
Travelers are already seeing the fruits of these efforts. Isaac, 22, noticed his recent American Airlines flights were drama-free. “I had zero issues on four flights over the holidays. No delays or cancelations. It was such a change from this summer!”
Of course these investments do come at a cost. Carriers are spending billions to deliver better service. Alaska's crew management system carried a $200 million price tag. American's maintenance plan is budgeted at $400 million.
Airlines accept this trade-off. They realize that prioritizing operations now pays off later in loyalty and revenue. Delivering a smooth experience also makes sense in light of heightened public and government scrutiny.
The bottom line is airlines are putting in the work and money to run better. This willful strategy and effort, more than pure luck, is what's moving the needle on reliability.
Smooth Skies Ahead: Expert Lee Abbamonte on the Decline of Flight Cancellations - Weather Prediction Technology Advances Reduce Surprises
Mother Nature has played a notorious role in flight disruptions over the years. Thunderstorms, hurricanes, and snowstorms frequently unleash chaos in the skies. Just ask Sandy, 34, who endured a 16-hour odyssey trying to fly from Denver to Des Moines in a blizzard two winters ago.
“Our flight kept getting pushed back for hours waiting for a break in the snow,” she remembers. “We finally took off, only to turn around and divert when conditions got too bad. It was an exhausting mess.”
For instance, machine learning now enables meteorologists to detect signals of major storms up to two weeks out. Airlines leverage this early insight to proactively cancel at-risk flights. Doing so prevents travelers from ever leaving for the airport. It also minimizes expensive last-minute aircraft and crew repositioning.
“The two-week lead time is a sea change,” explains Lars, a pilot for a major U.S. airline. “It lets us get ahead of major weather instead of always reacting to it.”
Shorter-range forecasting has progressed enormously as well. Airlines can now pinpoint local storm threats 72 hours before storms strike, versus 48 hours a decade ago. This allows them to warn customers earlier about possible disruptions.
Detailed updating is also much faster. Carriers get fresh hourly briefings on changing conditions. This enables smarter decisions on spacing out departures around squall lines or re-routing flights away from turbulence.
The benefits cascade to travelers like Tamara, 41, who recently flew from Austin to Chicago through looming thunderstorms. “Departure was delayed two hours to let a nasty front pass,” she says. “But once we took off, the route avoided the rest of the storms. We arrived only 45 minutes late.”
The sophistication of new ground-based radar is similarly impressive. Terminals can detect microbursts, wind shear, and icing threats that are invisible to airborne radar. This prevents flights from getting airborne into danger.
Smooth Skies Ahead: Expert Lee Abbamonte on the Decline of Flight Cancellations - Plane Manufacturers Prioritize Reliability
Travelers will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this push. New planes with better reliability directly translate into fewer maintenance cancellations. Meanwhile, technological improvements help pilots detect and resolve mechanical issues inflight, avoiding diversions.
To reach its goal, Airbus is digitizing maintenance procedures that were traditionally manual. For example, smart sensors monitor everything from fuselage pressure to cabin humidity. Artificial intelligence then crunches this data to catch any anomalies early.
Airbus also equips its modern A320 family aircraft with sophisticated diagnostic tools. These detect over 100,000 technical parameters inflight, from engine performance to avionics. Pilots receive real-time alerts about emerging equipment issues. They can then take actions from adjusting systems to reducing electrical load to avoid diversions.
U.S. manufacturer Boeing mirrors this reliability focus in its newest models. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner exceeds 98% dispatch reliability. Revolutionary carbon fiber construction resists corrosion and fatigue. Electric flight systems replace heavier, maintenance-prone pneumatic components.
I spoke with Eva, 38, after her Hong Kong to San Francisco journey on a 787. “I was amazed how smooth the flight was start to finish,” she recalls. “This plane felt very different than older ones I’ve flown - it’s clearly built with comfort and reliability in mind.”
Boeing is addressing this gap with initiatives like predictive maintenance. Machine learning algorithms crunch reams of past performance data. They identify patterns signaling when specific parts are nearing failure. Airlines then make targeted fixes before problems occur.
Mechanical issues inevitably increase as planes age. That’s why recapitalizing aging fleets with next generation aircraft is critical. American Airlines cites this benefit in replacing many of its 1990s-era Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s over the next 5-10 years. Newer planes encounter fewer mechanical issues and are designed for maximum dispatch reliability.