GAO: Report: Airlines, Not Weather, to Blame for Cancelled Flights That Stranded Thousands

Airlines, Not Weather, Responsible for Canceled Flights

Are you tired of being stranded at airports due to canceled flights? A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that airlines, not weather, are the leading cause of flight cancellations. The surge in cancellations post-pandemic is due to factors that airlines have control over, such as maintenance issues or lack of a crew.

What the Report Found

The GAO report, requested by Republican leaders of the House Transportation Committee, found that most of the increase in airline-caused cancellations has occurred at budget airlines. However, several of the largest airlines have also made more unnecessary errors. Flight cancellation rates in the last six months of 2021 dominated 2018 and 2019 rates despite 14 percent fewer scheduled flights. The percentage of airline-caused cancellations began increasing by early 2021.

Who’s to Blame?

Major airlines have clashed with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg over the increased cancellations. Carriers have argued that the government is to blame for insufficient air traffic controllers, while Buttigieg points fingers at the airlines. Republicans have questioned whether the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or Department of Transportation (DOT) under Buttigieg were helping to address these ongoing issues.

What the Airlines Are Doing

At the height of the pandemic, airline companies took $54 billion in taxpayer money to keep employees working through the unforeseen times. Still, they reduced workers anyway by paying them incentives to quit. Then, as travel picked up and the world returned to normal, the airlines struggled to replace thousands of workers who left. Southwest, Delta, American, United, Allegiant Air, Spirit, JetBlue, and Frontier Airlines were to blame for more than 60 percent of their total cancellations caused by issues those carriers could control.

“Carriers have taken responsibility for challenges within their control and continue working diligently to improve operational reliability as demand for air travel rapidly returns,” said Hannah Walden, a spokeswoman for trade group Airlines for America. “This includes launching aggressive, successful hiring campaigns for positions across the industry and reducing schedules in response to the FAA’s staffing shortages.”

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