Could we see more mass airline cancelations this Thanksgiving week? Experts weigh in


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A record number of Americans are expected to fill the airports this holiday week, and national flight experts are now weighing in on whether that could create issues for an industry that’s already struggling with a lack of staffing.

In October, News4 detailed the countless stories of Oklahomans who were stranded, some internationally, after Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights. American Airlines also canceled hundreds more just weeks later, citing staffing issues and weather.

AAA predicts more than 53.4 million people to travel this Thanksgiving — the highest single-year increase since 2005.

“We’re seeing about an 80% increase in travel over last year by air,” said AAA Oklahoma spokesperson Leslie Gamble.

Gamble adds that Oklahomans aren’t as concerned about covid as they were last year.

“According to the AAA state survey here in Oklahoma…only 10 percent are saying there concerned about the impact of covid,” she said. “We expect the airports to be very busy. It’s really gonna be a test of the recovery for our airlines and our airports.”

There’s a reason why Americans — and Oklahomans in particular — aren’t traveling more on the roads
“I think the major factor that we’re seeing is gas price concerns and it is up significantly,” she said. “[The price] is very shocking even when you’re in the state where it’s the least expensive.”

Kathleen bangs with the national airline tracker Flightaware says the airline industry is still hurting from worker shortages and this holiday surge could create a further strain.

“We’re probably not gonna hit 2019 levels but we’re gonna get possibly within 8 to 9 percent of those levels,” she said. “But we’re doing it without less people and less reserves…the common factor in all three of these operational meltdowns were labor shortages.”

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Bangs says although airlines are doing what they can to prepare, there are factors that could create serious issues for your travel.

“The great unknown of course is weather,” she said. “If we end up with a snowstorm or an ice storm, especially in a busy corridor like the northeast corridor…that can really have a domino effect on the whole system.”

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