Are you concerned or even fed up with holiday travel delays, and hoping for a change? Don’t hold your breath just yet…
Why this is important: If the past few holiday seasons are any indication, then we might not want to hold our breath on having a smooth Thanksgiving holiday travel season. No doubt we could be wrong about this, but we believe that the underlying factors that led to large numbers of delays and cancellations over holiday seasons for the past few years have still not been resolved, and in some cases, they have been exacerbated. These factors include but not limited to:
- The lack of personnel, particularly in the Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC), is driven by staffing shortages.
- Outdated technology is being used not only by ARTCC but also by some airlines.
- Increased safety concerns from Near-Misses require more processes to help mitigate these safety concerns.
Get Involved: Are you traveling this holiday season? Are you expecting any disruptions in your travel plans? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Recruiting and staffing challenges at ARTCC.
- It is no secret that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has faced challenges with recruiting and staffing. Some have blamed the safety concerns, to be discussed later in this article on the degradation of hiring best practices due to these staffing challenges.
- Another thing to think about is the fact that with the staffing challenges, there could be delays in ARTCC operations. In fact, we saw this happen earlier this year where due to staffing shortages on the ARTCC side there were massive amounts of delays and cancellations.
- If staffing challenges remain, we can expect that what we have seen in the past could be very likely for this holiday season.
Outdated technologies that are unable to keep up with increased and changing demands and their effect on travel.
- As we have stated in our previous full article: Readers of this newsletter will remember the Southwest Airlines debacle with their scheduling system. This was allegedly caused by Southwest using an outdated system that could not accurately account for disruptions in their operations. However, Southwest was not the only one responsible for massive delays over the past year or two. ARTCC had some serious issues as well that led to massive amounts of delays in the United States, as well as Canada, and other places around the world. This was caused in part by outdated technology.
- It is very clear to the average observer that more people are traveling today than 10 years ago. Yet, the average age of the technology for operational and administrative purposes within aviation is about 15 years old. This means that during peak travel seasons the industry finds it tough at times to keep up with travel demands. To make matters worse, there are significantly more aircraft flying around in the skies, largely due to a spike in interest for general aviation flights, along with an increase in commercial flights.
On Aviation™ Note: Starting in 2016, the FAA has adopted new technologies for safety within the United States aerospace system. Technology such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) across general aviation. While the system is intended to provide greater safety of flight, the system requires massive updates on the ARTC side, which also still has to deal with an increasing amount of flights on the airline side.
Increase protocols at airports due to the recent spike in Near-Misses. (runway incursions).
- The head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently expressed serious concerns about the spike in Near-Misses at US airports. Since the NTSB’s job is to recommend safety protocols and procedures to the FAA when the need arises, we can expect to see new protocols and training related to the recent spike in Near-Misses.
- We believe that the FAA will introduce new training and safety policies and protocols to stem or reverse what we have termed “Standards Creep”. We have defined standard creep as the overwhelming need to fill a job or get something done that inadvertently, we slowly over time, reduce our standards for the input factors to getting the job done.
- While safety protocols are absolutely important, we are well aware that more protocols and processes mean delayed process time, which inevitably leads to delays and possible cancellation of flights.
On Aviation™ Note: We would like to make it very clear that we are in favor of the very best practices and protocols that lead to the safest travel and best customer experience possible. We are always concerned, however, about the heavy-handed approach by regulators, since this could have the opposite effect.
While we all enter the holiday season with hope and optimism that we will be able to travel safely and efficiently to spend time with friends and family, we must also be aware of factors outside of our control that could stymie those plans. That being said, having the awareness and a clear understanding of these factors makes us better off, as we can account for these factors within our plans. Ultimately, being able to travel safely and efficiently during these festive seasons.
Thank you for reading this week’s On Aviation™ full article. Are you traveling this holiday season, and are you expecting any disruptions in your travel plans? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Remember to check out our On Aviation™ Podcast and continue the conversation on our Twitter and Instagram.
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