- Over the weekend, Delta Air Lines canceled about 100 flights because of staffing issues.
- Middle seats were also booked, despite an airline policy blocking them through April.
- Delta was already facing criticism for its response to Georgia’s new voting law.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Delta Air Lines capped off a turbulent week with about 100 flight cancellations over the weekend because of a shortage of staff.
“Delta teams have been working through various factors, including staffing, large numbers of employee vaccinations and pilots returning to active status,” Delta told Insider.
The airline has struggled with periodic increases in passengers, particularly around holidays. Over Thanksgiving and Christmas, the busiest travel times of 2020, Delta canceled hundreds of flights because of similar staffing issues; it said it canceled over 300 flights before Christmas and 615 over Thanksgiving.
A pandemic record number of passengers flew in the US over Easter weekend: About 1.6 million travelers departed from US airports on Friday, and at least 1.3 million traveled in each of the following days, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Pilots are grounded for 48 hours after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, per Federal Aviation Administration rules, because the side effects can affect their ability to safely operate an aircraft, Insider reported in December. Delta houses a vaccination megasite in Atlanta at the Delta Flight Museum.
Some travelers who booked with Delta to take advantage of its policy of blocking middle seats – the major differentiator between Delta and its rivals in 2021 – found themselves with a seat neighbor. Delta was forced to book some middle seats, a policy scheduled to take effect in May, to accommodate travelers on canceled flights.
More Americans are eager to fly as vaccine rollouts accelerate and as stimulus checks hit their accounts.
Read more: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population – and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe
Delta, based in Atlanta, was criticized last week over its response to Georgia’s new restrictive voting law and has faced calls for boycotts. CEO Ed Bastian initially expressed some support for the law, which critics have said amounts to voter suppression, but he later denounced it.
Delta employees were also heavily affected by Bastian’s initial comments, Henry Harteveldt, an industry analyst, told Insider in a recent interview – potentially demoralizing its workforce during its busiest weekend in over a year.
Delta will have a slight reprieve until the next holiday travel weekend, Memorial Day in late May. But with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance giving vaccinated travelers the green light to travel domestically, greater numbers of daily air travelers could be here to stay.
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