Airlines that once touted globe-spanning destinations, promising adventure, luxury or both, are now leaning on a simpler sales pitch: reliability.
Flight delays and cancellations spiked at several points over the last year, costing U.S. carriers more than $100 million combined and disrupting travel plans of hundreds of thousands of customers. Even some crews have been forced to sleep at airports, a rare last resort for an industry that’s used to accommodating thousands of pilots and flight attendants on the road each day.
As the peak travel season gets underway, the industry risks a repeat of those headaches, and airlines are hoping to get ahead of the problems. Their efforts include massive hiring, better technology for staff and customers, earlier planning for storms, and for some carriers, conservative scheduling or cuts to their spring and summer schedules altogether.
One of airlines’ biggest challenges in what’s shaping up to be a monster travel season is how to handle routine disruptions like bad weather, whether that means delaying flights or canceling outright before passengers arrive at the airport. When planes are packed, airlines have fewer options to move passengers to alternate flights, setting up a game of musical chairs in the sky — with luggage.
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