In an interview this week, the CEO of United Airlines warned that travelers should expect air travel to return to normal in no less than a year.
According to United CEO Scott Kirby, air traffic will gradually improve over the next year but will not return to normal until next summer.
“The biggest challenge that we face probably in the next 12 months is all the infrastructure challenges around aviation. It’s maddening for us at United right now because… we’re ahead of the curve, we’re signing,” said Kirby.
“But you look at the mess that’s been going on at Heathrow or some of the other challenges we’ve had with air traffic control or other things around the system and the system just can’t support our flights… back capacity.
“All the costs are still there because we are prepared to be a much bigger airline – we have people to be a much bigger airline – but we will be a smaller airline until the system can support it,” he said. .
When pent-up demand for travel after COVID-19 surged back last year and this year, airlines were almost taken by surprise.
To meet the demand for air travel, airlines simply didn’t have enough pilots, porters or even call center agents. Due to the increase in travelers, many airlines have had to change their schedules, cancel some flights to smaller cities and reduce staff.
United, on the other hand, has joined several other airlines in reducing their summer flights as a precaution. Dozens of flights from United’s Newark hub were cancelled, as were flights to two other destinations and a third route in the fall.
Kirby said the FAA has been working with the airline since United’s cuts in Newark. [is] Best.”
“So we’re seeing progress in various parts of the system,” he said. “Our basic assumption is that it will gradually improve and we will not return to normal utilization and normal staffing levels until next summer.”
Looking even further ahead, Kirby has a few suggestions for anyone who travels frequently on winter break.
“Unfortunately, there will still be fewer seats available throughout the system because the infrastructure around aviation cannot support it,” he said. “You should probably book ahead for Christmas… we’re going to fly less so we can make sure we have reliability.”