As passengers are experiencing delays and canceled flights more than usual over the Fourth of July, an Axios report revealed that airlines knew ahead of time there would be problems.
Axios’s Joann Muller reported that Delta Air Lines knew it would face “operational challenges” over the Fourth of July holiday weekend when millions of people travel.
However, the airline attempted to get ahead of a potential problem by allowing customers to change their plans with free rebooking, normally at a fee as high as $200 a ticket.
Delta’s systemwide travel waiver allows customers the opportunity to “rebook their trip to before or after potentially challenging weekend travel days – with no fare difference or change fees, as long as customers travel between the same origin and destination.”
As Axios pointed out, the waiver from Delta allows customers not to pay the fare difference for a new flight as long as the new flight has the same point of origin and destination. However, the travel window from Delta is tight, specifying rebooked trips haved to be completed by July 8, a Friday, and not allowing customers to extend travel to the weekend.
Despite all of this, no one wants to take the blame. The airline industry and the federal government agency responsible for air travel — Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — have been blaming each other.
Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, told his staff in a webinar on June 29 that he sees a “stressed” air traffic control system as the leading cause of flight disruption.
“This is about a partnership and the government needs to step up,” Bastian added. “It should get better, but this is going to be a constraint that’s going to stay with us for some time.”
But Biden’s Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, the head of the department that oversees the FAA, has blamed the airlines, which saw a significant drop in air travel during the coronavirus pandemic, for downsizing as the reason behind the struggles.
“The majority of cancellations, and the majority of delays, have nothing to do with air traffic control staffing,” Buttigieg told NBC News’s Lester Holt on June 28.
The airline industry also received $54 billion in federal aid during the coronavirus pandemic, Axios noted.