Grounded and Grouchy: The American Plane Shortage Stranding Travelers

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Discover how various issues in the air industry will affect travel this summer.

Big Travel Plans

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Following the huge decrease in travel during COVID, numbers were predicted to get back on track. A forecast suggested that 4.7 billion people would travel in 2024, up from 4.5 billion in 2019.

Limiting Factors

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However, this increase may not be possible due to a lack of aircraft. Boeing and Airbus, two of the industry’s main manufacturers, have both been experiencing production issues.

Safety First

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Boeing’s 737 Max 9 was the aircraft involved in Alaskan Airlines’ incident on January 5 this year. Its predecessor the Max 8, was involved in more than one fatal crash. Regulators have capped the 737s that Boeing can make, but Boeing isn’t even reaching that limit.

Necessary Inspections

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Skycolors

Airbus had similar issues after flaws were found in the A320s engines, leaving 650 planes grounded and awaiting inspection. This means airlines won’t have access to the number of planes they need to meet demand.

Fewer Flights

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Airlines without sufficient new planes, such as United and Delta, are reducing their flights as we head into summer, which is ina time of high demand.

Routes Cut

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Some providers, including Ryan Air in Europe, have cut routes. Delta has cut four routes, including LA to London and one of its New York to Florida services.

Desperate Measures

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In an attempt to maintain their fleets, airlines are turning to older planes. These aircraft would usually be considered to have reached the end of their useful life, but instead, they are being repaired. Airlines face long maintenance times and high costs to keep these planes serviceable.

Increasing Costs

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Another option for airlines is leasing aircraft. According to usnews.com, leasing an Airbus 320 or Boeing 737 costs around $400,000 monthly, the highest fee since 2008. 

The Cost of Flying

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Surprisingly, the costs and difficulties facing airlines aren’t currently reflected in ticket prices. Fares are 2.28% lower than in 2019 and 15.72% lower than ten years ago.

Travel Trends

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Travel site thevacationer.com has just released its Summer Travel Survey. It shows a decrease in planned air travel in the US, down 2.3% since last year.

A High Price to Pay

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / kitzcorner

One of the most expensive flights available is Lufthansa’s New York—Hong Kong return, which costs a staggering $43,535. Perhaps Emirates’ LA-Dubai route is more appealing, starting at $30,000.

On a Budget

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At the other end of the spectrum, there are still some incredibly cheap flights around. $58 can get a return ticket from Newark to Fort Lauderdale.

A Way to Cut Costs?

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Pixel-Shot

Airbus is said to be considering the possibility of transitioning from two pilots to just one per flight. This would be to cut costs, but it has received widespread criticism.

A Hero’s Opinion 

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Captain Chesley Sullenberger, known as Sully, is the pilot who successfully landed on the River Hudson after losing all engine power. Sully has spoken out against the idea of single-pilot flights. In an article he co-wrote on alpa.org, teamwork is highlighted as essential for safety.

The Boeing 737’s Turbulent Past

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With over 10,000 produced, the 737 is Boeing’s most popular plane, but it has had a bumpy ride and a questionable future. The fourth generation, Max 9, is under scrutiny due to door issues, but the Max 8 had even more problems. 

The Boeing 737 Max 8

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / arda savasciogullari

Two crashes, one in the Java Sea in 2018 and one in Ethiopia in 2019 sealed the fate of the Max 8. Software flaws are believed to have caused the crashes, which claimed 346 lives. 

A Whole Host of Issues

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Image Credit: Pexels / Quintin Gellar

Safety concerns around two of the most popular commercial aircraft aren’t the only thing affecting the industry. While airlines need planes, planes need engines and parts. Both of these are also in short supply, which also means difficulties getting parts to maintain planes already in use.

Pilots Needed

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Friends Stock

The pandemic didn’t just create a temporary halt in travel. Many senior pilots and others in the industry retired or moved on when work wasn’t available. While there are new recruits coming in, seniority and experience can’t be manufactured overnight.

Traffic Controllers

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff

According to skift.com, the Federal Aviation Administration reports a shortage of Air Traffic Controllers to the tune of 3,000. This means airports must limit their capacity, again meaning fewer flights available.

A Time to Stay Home?

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Olezzo

With all these factors combined, the fact that airfares haven’t risen significantly is a little puzzling and something we can certainly expect to change as the year progresses. It might be time to keep both feet on the ground for a while.

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The post Grounded and Grouchy: The American Plane Shortage Stranding Travelers republished on Passing Thru with permission from The Green Voyage.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Studio Romantic.

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