Home Life Airline crew shortages, delayed flights leave passengers angry, frustrated

Airline crew shortages, delayed flights leave passengers angry, frustrated

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Many airline passengers are having a tough time these days.

On a recent Delta flight from Atlanta, Ga., to New York City, passenger Travis Foreman had a very bumpy experience.

Not a big fan of flights — especially flights with turbulence — Foreman said he was thankful when his flight finally neared John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) in Queens.

But the same weather that had caused turbulence in the air was now also causing issues at JFK, keeping Foreman’s flight from landing in his home state. 

The plane circled and circled — and when finally given the green light, the plane began its descent, Foreman recalled.

“Within three minutes of [the plane] being told to land, the airport completely shuts down,” Foreman of Riverhead, NY, told Fox News Digital. 

“We can’t hover anymore, because we’re running out of fuel,” he said.

Foreman said his flight was diverted to Norfolk, Virginia. 

The passengers were told the plane would refuel and go back to JFK, according to Foreman. It was 6 p.m.

“The flight attendant comes on and says, ‘Don’t shoot the messenger, but we’re delayed until 6:30 a.m,’” Foreman said, adding that the time was then changed to 8:30 a.m. 

“I thought, ‘This can’t be real,’” he said. 

Passengers scrambled to find hotel rooms, which were few and far between because of other flights that were cancelled before Foreman’s, he said.

Because of staffing shortages, airlines are being forced to cancel thousands of flights.
Getty Images

The rental car line was two hours long, Foreman said — and when he finally spoke to an agent, he learned there were no cars available.

“I said, ‘I don’t care what kind of car it is, I’ll take a scooter. I’m not waiting till tomorrow,’” Foreman said, adding that the agent still said there was nothing available.

Foreman said that as he was speaking with the agent, a car became available — so he grabbed it. He said he offered anyone around him going to New York a ride and got on the road. 

He thought he could make the 370-mile drive in one night, but he was so tired that he pulled over at a hotel in Dover, Delaware for the night. 

Foreman said the cost of the rental car plus the hotel was about $500 in addition to the seven-hour drive.

“It was my time and my dime,” Foreman noted.

In response to the flight delay, a Delta Air Lines spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “Due to significant weather in the New York area on July 25, Flight 917 ATL-JFK diverted to Norfolk, VA and was delayed overnight due to federally required crew rest time.”

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience to our customers,” the spokesperson added.

More than 6,000 US flights were delayed or canceled just this past Monday alone, mere days after US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned airlines that his department could take actions if carriers don’t provide more transparency about why the disruptions are occurring, FOX Business reported.

A young girl is going on a trip, holds plane tickets
Airline passengers have been facing heavy delays this summer.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

This summer’s long-awaited “back to normal” vacations have been upended in many cases by crew shortages and packed flights that leave little wiggle room for anything to go wrong. In addition, weather delays are typical of what happens in summer months.

‘Well-traveled people’

In June, passenger Rachel Levi Braha of New York City and her family had what she described as “the worst travel experience of our lives, and we are very well-traveled people.” 

The family of four, including two young children, were booked on an overnight flight on Air France from New York’s JFK to Paris, and then continuing on to Rome, Levi Braha said. 

Upon arriving at the airport more than three hours before departure, Levi Braha and her family were told the “system was down” and that boarding passes and luggage tags were being handwritten. 

The family stood in line for four hours, missing their original flight. 

The airline then told them they were rebooked on Delta for the following day, according to Levi Braha.

That new flight was scheduled to board at 1:05 a.m. It was delayed and did not leave JFK until 4 a.m. — which caused the family to miss their connection in Paris, Levi Braha said. 

Levi Braha said she and her family were rebooked on another connection, but a too-tight time frame and several misdirections from airline personnel caused the family to go through passport control three separate times before they finally arrived at their gate.

Once they did, they found there was no one working there to produce their boarding passes.

Man pulling cart of luggage.
The airline industry is reportedly short 12,000 pilots.
Getty Images

They missed the connection, were booked in a hotel nearby and were assured by airline officials that their luggage would be on the plane the following day, Levi Braha said.

At 4 a.m. the next morning, the family went back to the airport. Once again, they were told their luggage was on the flight, according to Levi Braha. 

She said that when they finally landed in Rome, their luggage was nowhere to be found. 

Five days later, she added, three suitcases arrived. The last piece of luggage arrived 14 days later.

One month after submitting a claim for reimbursement for the items they needed to replace, Rachel Levi Braha told Fox News Digital, “We have still heard absolutely nothing.”

Fox News Digital reached out to Air France for comment.

While the most recent available data from the Department of Transportation is only through May 2022, the first five months of the year showed that of the delays reported, the largest percentage were caused by what is defined as “within the airline’s control” (for example, maintenance or crew problems). 

Less than one percent of the delays were attributed to extreme weather. 

The airline industry is short 12,000 pilots, according to a report by FOX Business. 

Regional Airline Association CEO Faye Malarkey Black said in May that the pilot shortage is worsening as travel rebounds. 

Due to the shortage, 188 communities lost at least a quarter of their air service during the pandemic or the first half of 2022, according to Malarkey Black.

“While demand is strong, I want to acknowledge we are grappling with a real and worsening pilot shortage that is challenging us across the industry to fully meet demand,” said Black. 

In May 2022, carriers canceled 2.0% of their scheduled domestic flights, higher than the rate 0.5% in May 2021 and equal to the same rate 2.0% in pre-pandemic May 2019, according to a Department of Transportation bulletin from July.

Rear-view a young woman in front of the airport.
More than 6,000 flights were canceled this past Monday.
Getty Images

Bumping and oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly. 

For the first quarter of 2022, the 10 US reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntarily denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.44 per 10,000 passengers, higher than the rate of 0.08 in the first quarter of 2021 and the rate of 0.32 in the first quarter of 2019.

If you’ve got a flight coming up in the near future, here are five suggestions for air travel to try to mitigate delays and other issues.

5 travel tips for getting to your destination on time

1. Take the first flight of the day. The plane is not usually subject to waiting for an incoming aircraft — meaning it’s more likely to depart on time. 

2. If your vacation is dependent on an on-time flight arrival — think cruising — then plan to arrive one day ahead of time and book a hotel near the port. 

3. Have a backup plan. If there’s extreme weather in the forecast that might prevent you from getting home — and you’re unable to extend your vacation — look for hotels near the airport that have flexible cancellation policies. Book a room ahead of time.

4. Time the drive. If your flight is canceled or subject to a lengthy delay, calculate how long the drive would take you vs. waiting for the flight to leave. 

5. Also, consider the cost of gas and whether you will get a refund from your carrier. 

Fox News Digital’s Daniella Genovese and Andrew Miller contributed to this report

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