As the holidays roll around and COVID case numbers continue to drop, many of us are eager to travel in the upcoming months. The added protection provided from vaccinations and ongoing mask requirements on flights has also helped make air travel seem safer than it was early in the pandemic. But safety may not be the only concern now. Earlier this month, Southwest Airlines created a nationwide frenzy by canceling more than 1,800 flights, stranding travelers in airport terminals across the country. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem like an isolated event. Several major airlines were forced to cancel hundreds of flights on Oct. 21, and this—along with separate challenges brought on by COVID—is just adding to the number of last-minute cancellations. Read on to find out more about the most recent issue that has affected several major airlines.
SkyWest Airlines has had to cancel hundreds of flights due to a server outage.
A technical issue forced U.S. regional air carrier SkyWest Airlines to cancel around 700 flights on Oct. 21, Reuters reported. The issue was internally based, causing the airline to cease all operations for a total of five hours before it was resolved. A spokeswoman for SkyWest told the news outlet that it is working "to return to normal operations as quickly as possible," but the effects have already been wide-reaching. In fact, cancellations have seeped into the following day's schedule. According to FlightAware, a data research company that tracks flight cancellations and delays in real time, more than 400 more SkyWest flights for Oct. 22 have been canceled so far.
This is not the only airline that was impacted.
As a carrier, SkyWest also operates flights for other major airlines such as American, Delta, United, and Alaska. The technical issue, which United Airlines confirmed was a server outage at SkyWest, also disrupted numerous flights from these airlines. American Airlines told USA Today that around 170 of its flights were impacted on Oct. 21 and about 50 have been affected so far on Oct. 22, while Alaska Airlines reported that 80 flights were canceled on Oc5. 21 and that 26 have been impacted for the following day.
"Our technical teams engaged with SkyWest IT to resolve the issue and minimize the impact on our customers. We are working with customers directly to accommodate them to their destination as soon as possible and apologize for the inconvenience," Delta Air Lines said in a statement to USA Today. All in all, SkyWest serves 236 destinations in North America, according to its website.
Separate flight cancellations have recently hit other major airlines.
Following its massive flight cancellations and delays in early October, Southwest Airlines said it cost the carrier $75 million. But the airline is still planning to further reduce its schedule, CNBC reported on Oct. 21. According to the airline, it is now also cutting its December flight capacity to 92 percent of what it flew in the same month during 2019.
Alaska Airlines also recently announced it was cutting some of its flights in November and December. According to Insider, Alaska Airlines will operate fewer flights between Wichita, Kansas, and Seattle, Washington, during those months this year. Prior to this, the airline would usually run a flight from Wichita to Seattle every day, but it is cutting its Saturday flight for both months and its Tuesday service in December, according to an update on the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport's website.
The airport claimed this was "due to labor shortages," but a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines denied this and told Insider that the cancelations were "part of standard seasonal operation changes and is not a reflection on staffing changes."
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One airline says customers should expect higher ticket prices in the coming months as well.
Holiday travelers don't just need to worry that their flight may be canceled. During an Oct. 28 interview on CNBC's Squawk on the Street, Scott Kirby, the chief executive officer for United Airlines, said that customers should also expect ticket prices to increase soon. "Airfares are going to come back from the really, really low levels they got to during the pandemic," Kirby warned.
According to Kirby, an increase demand in flights has offset higher jet fuel prices, which is just set to create a snowball effect. "Ultimately, higher jet-fuel prices lead to higher ticket prices," he explained. United Airlines is forecasting average fuel costs to increase to $2.39 a gallon for this next quarter, which is a significant spike compared to the $2.14 per gallon it paid in the third quarter and the average of $2.02 per gallon it paid in the fourth quarter of 2019.