Delta finds itself in the middle of holiday havoc again with hundreds of flight cancellations

Dec 25, 2020

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Bad weather and staffing shortages have forced Delta Air Lines to cancel hundreds of flights on and before Christmas, The Washington Post reported. It’s an unfortunate repeat of the Thanksgiving holiday period, when Delta canceled approximately 500 flights.

The latest flurry of cancellations began on Wednesday, when Delta canceled hundreds of flights in anticipation of a winter storm that pummeled its hub in Minneapolis. The latest round of cancellations — about 100 flights on Christmas Day — is being attributed to pilot scarcity.

On social media, travelers described being bumped from multiple flights and lengthy, hours-long wait times for customer service.

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Last month, Delta spokesperson Anthony Black told TPG a number of factors had “pressured [Delta’s] ability to timely staff several dozen scheduled flights. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our customers.” He issued a similar response to The Washington Post in regards to the Christmastime cancellations.

In addition to having to rebook all those people whose flights were canceled due to the snowstorm in the Twin Cities that dumped nearly 9 inches at Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP), Delta has been dealing with the ongoing pilot shortage caused by the pandemic.

Delta Air Lines First Officer Chris Riggins told TPG in November that the airline is dealing with a shortage of pilots for certain types of aircraft, caused by cutbacks earlier in the year.

Riggins said there’s “a smaller pool of pilots qualified and ready to fly in the fleets that are seeing an increased demand over this holiday,” adding that, “.. cancellations would indicate that there aren’t enough crews available to cover all the demand.”

A scheduler with 20 years of experience also told TPG last month that scheduling problems are always an issue during the holidays. But added flights to accommodate the spike in demand — despite pleas from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for travelers to stay home — and COVID-19 restrictions, could all play a role in the cancellations, among other factors. After all, Delta has committed to keeping middle seats blocked through March 2021, meaning there are fewer seats for passengers on available aircraft.

Feature image of Delta jets in Minneapolis (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

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