HOUSTON – As Roger and Pat Bate hustled to catch a plane home to Houston, they got the dreaded call that many will receive from their airline this year.
There was a problem with the crew, the plane, something - the Continental employee was not sure. The Bates needed to find another way home.
It is a call that millions of passengers received as airlines canceled nearly 65,000 flights so far this year. That is almost as many as all of 2007, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and travelers should be ready to be even more flexible as airlines carve chunks out of their schedules later this year.
United Airlines said it will cut as many as 14% of available seats on domestic flights by the end of the year. American Airlines will slash as much as 12% after the peak summer travel season, and Continental Airlines will reduce about 11% in seating capacity starting in September. Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, and US Airways said they are planning similar cuts of 13%, 9.5% and 8%, respectively, by the end of the year.
Airlines hope that by offering fewer travel options they can boost fares and better deal with soaring fuel costs that have overwhelmed the industry. But airline observers say many passengers who bought their tickets months in advance are now going to have to scramble to fit new flights into their plans.
It's unfair, airline expert Terry Trippler said. Airlines "are the ones who've underpriced their product for the last two or three years," he said. "You cannot take people's money four and five and six months out, and then one month out say, 'It's changed.'"
The capacity cuts also mean that later this year airlines may have less wiggle room to reposition passengers if there are unexpected cancellations.
Source: Associated Press