‘Sort of last minute’: Airline pilot fatigue leads to flight delays, cancellations

SPOKANE, Wash. — Millions of travelers are taking to the skies each day and airlines are forecasting what could be the most profitable summer. Yet, many pilots say they’re stretched to the limit.

Alaska Airlines pilots started picketing for better pay and schedules earlier in April.

Experts say a pilot shortage is real and travelers will feel it this summer.

The Southwest Pilot’s Union released a statement saying pilots are suffering from an epidemic of fatigue earlier this month. The union claims a 300-percent spike in pilot fatigue calls.

“It could be concerning, you’re putting your life in their hands. At the same time, you trust that they are professional and experts and that they know what’s best for them, so if they’re behind in the cockpit then they should be good to go,” traveler Jenny Slagle said.

Yet, Southwest says since its implementation of schedule revisions they’ve seen a steady decline in those calls.

Southwest Airlines issued 4 News Now this statement:

“Since implementing schedule revisions last November, Southwest has seen a significant and steady decline in the number of Pilots calling in fatigued. We, along with the industry, continue our progress toward returning our operation back to pre-pandemic service and staffing levels, which will foster improvements in our ability to handle unexpected operational disruptions, minimizing the impact on Employees and Customers. Southwest has a Culture of Safety that proactively manages risks and encourages all Employees to report any concerns. We keep operating a Safe airline at the forefront of everything we do and will continue monitoring Southwest’s internal controls, systems, and procedures to maintain our commitment to safety.”

If pilots tell the airline they’re fatigued, the pilot is automatically removed from the flight with no questions. This often times leads to delays and cancelations.

“Then the next piece is having a cancelation occur. Sort of last minute. I think it’s one thing to be able to plan for stuff but if we had friends that had like a big resort trip canceled kind of at the last minute that can be hard,” traveler Ritu Shani said.

Jet Blue Airways said its cutting flights by up to 10% this summer. Alaska Airlines plans to cut its flight by two-percent through June.

READ: Alaska Airlines cancels, delays more flights as pilots picket for better pay and flexible schedules