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The Wall Street Journal: Airlines cut flights, add staff in preparation of busy summer travel season

Airlines are adding staff and cutting flights in an effort to avoid upheaval as both customer demand and labor shortages persist.

JetBlue Airways Corp.
JBLU,
-1.57%

this weekend said it would reduce flights in May and throughout the summer due to staffing limitations, after canceling more than 300 flights over the weekend. Alaska Air Group Inc.
ALK,
-2.08%

last week said it would trim spring flying to catch up on pilot training. Meanwhile, other carriers including American Airlines Group Inc.
AAL,
-2.12%

say they are prepared for the summer surge after a monthslong hiring spree.

Carriers say they are taking seriously the lessons of last summer, when operations were strained due to booming demand. With staffing thin, many airlines were unable to recover quickly from what should have been routine disruptions such as poor weather. Travelers faced cancellations, delays and hourslong waits for customer service help by phone.

“We are very focused on maintaining our resilience,” said David Seymour, chief operating officer of American. “We’re not letting our guard down.”

Airlines executives say bookings exceed expectations, despite soaring fuel costs that are pushing ticket prices higher. Summer schedules haven’t been completed and are still fluctuating, but U.S. airlines currently plan to fly about 16% more seats than last summer, according to data from Cirium.

“The operations staffing will be on a razor’s edge,” said Tim Donohue, co-founder of Aerology, a startup that works to predict flight disruptions. “The razor’s edge barely works when things go as scheduled.”

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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