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Travel: 'We don't have enough pilots,' analyst explains amid cancellation mayhem

Yahoo Finance US 5/31/2022 Brian Sozzi

Americans planning to fly this summer to a vacation spot of choice should prepare for annoying delays and cancellations as the airline industry grapples with severe staffing shortages.

"I think it's going to be a while," said veteran airline sector analyst Helane Becker of Cowen on Yahoo Finance Live on when crippling worker shortages would stop (video above). "First of all, we don't have enough pilots. ... The industry saw about 10,000 pilots retire in 2020 and 2021, and another 2,000 are set to retire this year. So in order to get back to 2019 capacity levels, we need to hire a minimum of 12,000 or 13,000 pilots."

Travelers got a taste of the impending mess on the always-busy Memorial Day weekend when U.S. airlines canceled more than 2,800 flights from Thursday through Monday, according to data from Flightaware.

Airline pilots walk through the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on December 27, 2021 at Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo Finance US Airline pilots walk through the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on December 27, 2021 at Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

"Airport shops are shuttered in some cases because they don't have enough people to work," Becker added. "And gate agents is another issue. Air traffic controllers are another issue. So I think it will be a couple of years yet before we have enough crew members to handle the demand that we are seeing now. And we are expecting demand to continue to grow in the order of 2-3% a year for the foreseeable future — maybe even more than that."

The scene wasn't looking much better on Tuesday as travelers attempted to return to work after the long weekend: Flightaware data showed that 6,874 flights had been delayed as of 12:47 ET, along with 1,063 cancellations.

"It's going to be particularly bad this summer," Becker said. "We just don't have enough seats, and we don't have enough people to handle that three years-worth of demand. People are just tired of being home."

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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