As demand for summer travel surges, Delta trims schedule in effort to avoid disruptions

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Delta airlines airplanes are seen parked at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. 
Camilo Freedman | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines is cutting about 100 flights a day from July 1 through Aug. 7, becoming the latest carrier to scale back capacity in hopes of avoiding flight disruptions for thousands of travelers.

The summer cuts represent about 2% of Delta’s scheduled departures. Other carriers including JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines have also trimmed schedules to give their operations more wiggle room to handle challenges like bad weather and staffing shortages.

“More than any time in our history, the various factors currently impacting our operation – weather and air traffic control, vendor staffing, increased COVID case rates contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups – are resulting in an operation that isn’t consistently up to the standards Delta has set for the industry in recent years,” Delta’s chief customer experience officer Allison Ausband wrote in a note to customers Thursday.

Delta also asked pilots to pick up open shifts during a busy Memorial Day weekend, when it expects to fly 2.5 million people, up 25% from last year.

Fewer seats mean more pricing power for airlines as travelers return to the skies after more than two years of the pandemic.

Southwest Airlines, for example, on Thursday said it expects its second-quarter capacity to be 7% lower compared with 2019 levels, with operating revenue up as much as 15% compared with three years ago.

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