Don’t Blame the Weather: Airlines Caused Their Own Cancellations, Government Report Says

The Government Accountability Office found that flight cancellations are predominately due to the airlines themselves.

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If you experienced a flight cancellation or delay in the past, a new government report says that weather is not the likely culprit.

As the pandemic ended, and passengers took back to the skies, airlines themselves were often the cause for delays or cancellations, according to a new government report. The key reasons cited were lack of staff, some of which had been laid off during the pandemic, or aircraft maintenance were the primary reasons for delays.

The findings come from the new “Airline Passenger Protections: Observations on Flight Delays and Cancellations, and DOT's Efforts to Address Them” report from the Government Accountability Office, or GAO.

“Flight cancellation rates in the last 6 months of 2021 outpaced 2018 and 2019 rates despite 14 percent fewer scheduled flights,” the report shared.

The report’s findings were based on data up until April 2022, and did not include the busy summer travel season of 2022, or the holiday meltdown that left thousands of passengers on Southwest Airlines flights stranded for days. 

Regardless of the timing, the report reveals critical insights on how the aviation industry was plagued with staffing issues which caused a ripple effect when a cancellation or delay occurred.

“Stakeholders said that operational challenges, including a need for additional pilots and crew, have made it harder for airlines to manage flight disruptions,” the report reads. 

The promising news for passengers is that the report reveals that the aviation industry took these challenges seriously, and invested in new training facilities, increased hiring of workers, and preemptively reduced schedules of flights to avoid cancellations. 

Travel + Leisure has previously reported on how airlines have reduced flight schedules for the summer 2023 travel season to help ease congestion and avoid delays closer to a departure date.

While cancellations and delays can be a nuisance to travelers, the report does recognize the incredible efficiency of the aviation industry. 

“Airline operations are complex, and many factors may affect airlines’ operational and on-time performance. Tens of thousands of flights on average operate in the National Airspace System each day,” the report stated.

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