WASHINGTON — A key senator is asking six U.S. airlines to explain the high rates of delayed and canceled flights this summer, and she’s asking whether there are labor shortages despite the airlines getting billions in federal aid to keep workers on the job. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, sent letters Friday to the CEOs of American, Southwest, Delta, JetBlue, Republic and Allegiant. She wrote that she is concerned by reports that have highlighted the role of worker shortages in a surge of delayed and canceled flights. In identical letters to the CEOs, Cantwell said each airline did a poor job of managing its workforce and, at worst, “failed to meet the intent of tax payer funding and prepare for the surge in travel that we are now witnessing.”
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Southwest, one of the hardest hit by delays, said Friday it used the federal money to keep flying to all the airports it served before the pandemic. It blamed recent delays on summer thunderstorms and technology “challenges” last month that led to an unusually high number of delays and flight cancelations.
The number of people flying in the U.S. bottomed out at less than 100,000 a day in April 2020. It has increased from about 700,000 a day in early February to about 2 million a day in July, although that is still down 20% from the same month in 2019, before the pandemic.
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