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ASCM Insights

Flight Delays and Cancellations Once Again Threaten the Summer Season


It’s Memorial Day weekend in the United States, the unofficial start of summer — and summer vacations. But as people look forward to enjoying some time off, there’s a catch: On the heels of the pandemic, pent-up demand for travel and persistent staffing shortages, air travel is once again predicted to be difficult this year.

In fact, one travel expert goes so far as to describe what’s on the horizon as “hellish.” Suzanne Rowan Kelleher writes in Forbes that this summer is going to be even worse than last year’s disastrous season. She recalls: “After the aviation industry ground to a virtual halt during the pandemic, it could not ramp up fast enough to handle the massive post-pandemic crush of people finally traveling again. Tens of thousands of flights were delayed and cancelled, travelers were left stranded, countless pieces of baggage were lost, and an aging and outdated infrastructure creaked and strained under the stress of it all.”

The aftershocks of last year’s airport nightmares continue to reverberate because many of the problems that faced the industry then still are unresolved. Furthermore, earlier this year, a malfunction in the Federal Aviation Administration’s database system led to thousands of flights being delayed or cancelled. “The F.A.A. has struggled to quickly update systems and processes, many of which were put in place decades ago, to keep up with technological advancements and a sharp increase in the number of flights and passengers,” writes Niraj Chokshi for The New York Times.

According to the Forbes article, the F.A.A. has invested billions of dollars in a multiyear modernization initiative, known as NextGen. Of the agency’s $23.6 billion annual budget, $1 billion is earmarked for NextGen.”

Meanwhile, ongoing personnel issues keep plaguing the industry. “When air travel quickly rebounded, airlines, like every other business, struggled to hire and train employees, including pilots, flight attendants and baggage handlers,” notes Chokshi. In response, airlines are hiring more staff — 487,000 full-time employees, the most since October 2001 — and flying bigger planes with more passengers. Yet the problems persist.

Air-traffic controller shortages are also a serious concern, and this traces all the way back to the 2013 United States budget sequestration, per Forbes. Kelleher quotes Paul Rinaldi, a former air traffic controller and president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association: “We have never made it back up [in staffing] since sequestration. And now here we are 10 years later, almost to the date, and we’re looking at the same type of draconian cuts.”

Travel alternatives

If you find yourself perpetually waiting around an airport, consider passing the time by preparing to advance your career. According to our latest Supply Chain Salary and Career Report, people who earn ASCM certifications enjoy significant career advancement and 27% higher salaries. Plus, with promo code SUMMER 23, you can now get 15% off CPIM, CSCP and CLTD learning systems or bundles, as well as our Planning, Procurement, Technology and Warehousing certificates. Dig into this industry-leading education to gain essential knowledge and level up your career — whether you’re seated comfortably in your office or stranded at gate B.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted through

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