Working for You
U.S. Airlines: Committed to Safety. Committed to Service. Committed to You.
July 28, 2022
Americans are booking tickets, packing their bags and heading to the airport for a vacation, family reunion, friend’s wedding or long-awaited business trip. Every day more than 2 million passengers are clearing security, boarding planes and taking off. It’s hard to believe that just two years ago, that number was less than 100,000. During the pandemic, air travel dropped 97 percent to levels we had not seen since the 1950s – the dawn of the jet age. Airports looked like ghost towns. Hundreds of commercial airplanes were parked wing to wing and nose to tail under the desert sun.
It’s remarkable to think that this industry has rebounded from 1950s levels to close to 2019 levels in a matter of months. This has been possible for two main reasons. First, we are incredibly grateful to thousands of employees – mechanics, gate agents, customer service agents, flight attendants, pilots and others – including those who remained on the job throughout the pandemic. The Payroll Support Program ensured they remained trained, licensed and ready to go. Second, we are thankful for the traveling public – our customers – who after two years of quarantines, lockdowns and stay-at-home restrictions are ready to get out and go!
The rebound has been rapid, and admittedly it has come with growing pains. There have been some challenges, but the industry is working to improve each day as we emerge from the pandemic and restore service. We are doing that in two ways – we are listening to you and we are making changes in how we operate to serve the traveling public to the best of our ability.
During the spring months, A4A passenger carriers proactively trimmed their summer schedules by 16 percent to accommodate staffing levels. Airlines are adjusting to new employment realities, recognizing that there will be higher number of employee callouts due to Covid cases and less employees willing to work over-time. For example, carriers have learned that a larger percentage of reserve employees is necessary as a result of increased absenteeism due to Covid-19. Airlines have quickly learned that pre-pandemic staffing models do not work in a post-pandemic world. Additionally, these issues aren’t unique to aviation, but are rather being experienced by every other sector of the economy, even the federal government.
Launching Hiring Campaigns
U.S. airlines have launched aggressive employment hiring campaigns – establishing new pilot training academies; supporting programs to address financial hurdles; enhancing recruitment initiatives– to hire for positions across the industry.
The industry’s recruitment efforts have been highly effective. As of June 1, 2022, A4A passenger carriers were staffed with 10 percent more pilots per 1,000 block hours than they were in June 2019, prior to the pandemic. And, as of May 2022, U.S. passenger carriers’ full-time equivalent employees fell just 1.8% below pre-pandemic levels. We also continue to strongly support legislative efforts to provide financial support for the extensive and expensive training pilots and mechanics are required to undergo.
U.S. airlines are committed to deepen recruitment efforts to secure a pipeline of new employees to support the industry over the coming years.
Updating Travel Policies
Carriers recognize the importance providing the highest levels of customer service from ticket purchase to touchdown. This is why A4A passenger carriers have made significant updates to their travel policies to increase flexibility for the traveling public, such as eliminating change fees for domestic flights or waiving the expiration date for travel credits. Additionally, U.S. airlines have issued $21 billion in cash refunds since the onset of the pandemic. A4A member carriers comply with federal regulations regarding passenger refunds.
Improving Passenger Communications
Airlines are investing heavily and expediting improvements to communications with passengers. For example, the carrier’s app is the most effective and efficient way for an airline to provide prompt travel updates to a passenger or for a traveler to make changes to travel plans. Travelers are increasingly relying on technology for check-in, operational updates, boarding and other information.
According to A4A’s annual survey, more than 80 percent of passengers without checked baggage utilized mobile check-in, and more than 60 percent of passengers used their mobile device to board the aircraft. Carriers are responding to these consumer preferences by significantly enhancing and expanding mobile capabilities to include gate information, flight status, baggage tracking, automatic rebooking and more.
Increasing Collaboration with FAA
U.S. airlines are increasing our coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address a range of shared operational challenges – including unpredictable inclement weather staffing at the carrier and federal government level – as demand for air travel has returned at an unexpectedly rapid pace. We appreciate the enhanced communication with the FAA to address a range of shared challenges as we work collaboratively to minimize disruptions and provide safe, efficient travel.
The learning curve to our nation’s “new normal” is steep, and U.S. airlines are adapting and implementing long-term solutions as quickly as possible to ensure smooth operations. We acknowledge that our work is not done which is exactly why we will continue listening to our customers and acting to show our commitment to safety, service and you.