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Why are there so many flight delays after taxpayers gave airlines so much money?

The federal government is working to address what they can as the pilot shortfall continues
Delta airlines
Posted at 3:00 AM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 08:11:58-04

WASHINGTON — Travel delays and cancellations at the airport seem to be part of the norm now. During the Fourth of July holiday weekend, 1.8% of all flights in the U.S. were canceled.

While that number was not as high as experts feared going into the weekend, a stunning 21% of flights were delayed, which is one in every five flights. So far, 2022 has seen more flight cancellations than in all of 2021.

According to the travel blog "The Points Guy," American and Delta lead the way in cancellations within the last month or so.

All of these travel delays have brought up questions about where the money that taxpayers gave airlines during the height of the pandemic went.

In total, taxpayers gave around $54 billion dollars to airlines so they could prevent massive layoffs when no one was traveling. According to industry experts, that money is mostly gone with the problem going well beyond cash.

United CEO Scott Kirby said in April on an earnings call, "there simply aren't enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years."

One reason is that many airlines offered buyouts and early retirement incentives during the pandemic that many pilots took advantage of. Filling those positions for many airlines hasn't been easy.

All of this suggests delays and cancellations will be part of the travel experience for a while, which is why the federal government is trying to address other issues to limit delays.

The Department of Transportation is reminding passengers on canceled flights they are entitled to refunds, not just vouchers or points.

The FAA is working to alleviate crowded airspace in states like Florida and New York, which have seen an increase in routes and, in turn, delays. More flights are also flying at lower altitudes to avoid weather challenges, even though that burns more fuel.

All of this is happening as the air traffic control industry is struggling to recruit staff as well. For many lawmakers though, it's not enough.

Sen. Bernie Sanders wants the Department of Transportation to be more aggressive with fining airlines when flights are canceled in certain situations.