Delta Air Lines Suffering Mass Cancellations Over The Busiest Travel Weekend Of The Year

By 9 a.m. this morning Delta Air Lines had cancelled over 80 flights today, on what’s expected to be the busiest travel day since March. There are even more cancellations tomorrow. So far FlightAware appears to be tracking over 420 Delta cancellations throughout the holiday weekend.

As of this writing, according to FlightAware,

  • Delta has 88 cancelled flights and experienced 177 delayed flights (this compares to 13 cancels and 51 delays at United, 13 cancels and 34 delays at Southwest, and 7 cancels and 105 delays at American)

  • Delta has already cancelled 192 flights for Thursday or 13% of their schedule (this compares to 5 at United, and 1 each at American and Southwest)

Almost all of the cancellations appear to be either Boeing 737s or Airbus narrowbody flights, though of course those are the bulk of what Delta is scheduled to fly currently.

Delta more than any other U.S. airline has prided itself – and sold itself – on reliability. They’ve gone over a month at a time without a mainline flight cancellation, and hit 200 days in a year without a mainline cancellation. The day before Thanksgiving would traditionally be a ‘no cancel’ day where the airline would go to tremendous lengths (including 20 hour flight ‘delays’ with different crew and aircraft) doing anything possible to avoid classifying a flight as cancelled. That didn’t work this year.

According to a Delta spokesperson,

Delta teams are working diligently to prevent flight cancellations this week. A number of factors have pressured our ability to timely staff several dozen scheduled flights on Wednesday. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers.

If a flight is canceled or significantly rescheduled by Delta, customers are proactively contacted with new flight details and have the options of adjusting their new booking, receiving eCredit for future travel or seeking a refund. The vast majority of customers are being rebooked for a flight during the same travel day.

Delta is committed to keeping middle seats blocked through March 30, 2021 and giving customers a multi-layered, comprehensive safe and clean experience as part of the Delta CareStandard

I understand that Delta added several flights for the Thanksgiving holiday in October, after November’s schedule had been ‘put out to bid’ by crews. These “open time” flights need to either be picked up by employees wanting more hours, or by those scheduled to work reserve. Why this created more of a problem than in normal times is something I’m trying to work through.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Screwed me over, stranded me in WV, couldn’t get me home till 9pm, day after I original flight. Still wouldn’t give me a refund, tried to give me e credit, I’ll walk before I fly Delta dummies again can’t rely on delta no more

  2. Unfortunately, Delta did this to themselves. In at attempt to levy the pilot union into concessions, they fabricated that a 15% cut of pilots was needed. After over 15% of pilots took an early retirement package, they claimed that they still needed 15% more. A moving goalpost.

    As a result, thousands of pilots began a continuous stream of displacements, meaning they had to be retrained on new airplanes. This takes months. Many pilots were left non-current on any airplane. The 1700+ pilots that were supposed to be furloughed are now “unassigned” and on significantly reduced pay starting in December. These are the pilots that would normally be flying your trips over Thanksgiving, especially on the A320 and B737.

    Unfortunately, this is the result of pure politics. Delta had 8 months to see this coming, but choose in their relentless path of pushing the union against a wall. It would surprise me if there will be any net cost savings when all the training down and back up is all done. All of this to prove a point to the non-unionized workgroups that unions are bad.

  3. Delta changed my flights at least 4 times causing a very stressful time. Every time they made a change I had to rearrange ground transportation. Then they just outright cancelled my flight home on Friday leaving me to figure it out. Then they had flights on their site that did not even exist. I had to take an eye opener flight but did I get a refund on the lower priced flight? Done traveling.

  4. “First Officer” above nailed it.

    Delta threatened over 2,500 pilots with furloughs by removing them from flying positions while negotiating for concessions. All of those pilots could be available to fly, but Delta put flying the schedule at a lower priority than positioning for negotiations.

  5. “First Officer” above nailed it.

    Delta threatened over 2,500 pilots with furloughs by removing them from flying positions while negotiating for concessions. All of those pilots could be available to fly, but Delta put flying the schedule at a lower priority than positioning for negotiations.

  6. Yes , the cancellation were horrible. They cancelled my late flight for the am flight, then cancelled the early flight for the next day. What made it worst was the fact they were selling a mid day flight for $800 online. I had to wait on standby and when I finally boarded that mid day flight to ATL; most of the business class seat were empty. So the 5 other standby passages were not able to board. Shame on you Delta…. You rather leave an empty business class seat then board a paying passenger. I fly at least 2x a month with Delta and shock that this was the new standard. SAD SAD SAD

  7. This is a profitability thing. Most of those flights canceling had 60 open seats or more. So they streamlined down a bit. It may mean someone goes a little later or earlier but they’re not going to cancel without reliably knowing they can rebook everyone easily later that day or early next morning if it is a late flight. The CDC came out in full force to try to scale back holiday travel just as it was picking up and Delta got optimistic for a chance to gain profit. Demand didn’t meet expectation clearly so they have to make a few cancellations. Everyone just be patient. Airlines are trying everything they can during COVID to just survive. If Delta doesn’t make these cancellations due to demand drop there might not be a Delta in a year or two. Expect the same situation around late December too.

  8. One ‘awshit’ (or in this case, many) clears a board full of ‘attaboys’.

    Keep climbing…

  9. So sick and tired of hearing the current or ex delta pilots whining over their concessions or loss of some benefits or retirement plans! Wake up! You guys are the reasons many airlines fail, just as many unions are the reasons for companies going bankrupt or higher prices passed on to the consumers. Delta not having a flight attendant union is one reason they have been so successful. Unions are bad. Plain and simple. Grow up pilots, get a set of testes and be happy you have a job that pays you what it does!

  10. Don’t believe airline stats about cancellations (and perhaps other stats). Delta has bragged about periods when there were no flight cancellations when I’ve been booked on one of its cancelled flight. There are ways to claim a cancelled flight is not cancelled like saying it was delayed for 24 hours and operated under a different flight number. That’s the stunt Delta pulled for my flight.

  11. Rico is an idiot that no doubt always has a hand out for freebies. Ever have a real job, boy? The real world is a lot different from your ignorant comments. Just wait till the Biden economy of shutdowns and layoffs by the millions begins.

  12. I’m with Rico, I’m so sick of the pilots BS…… while thousands of Delta employees took 4-6 months off without pay to help the company during Covid. The pilots sat on their butts doing nothing and still getting paid. While other employees struggle with cut hours the pilots won’t do their part to help out….. and now this……. did Delta screw up on some flights? Yes……. but they’re still ahead of the game compared to other airlines. Pilots stop playing games and Delta would be ahead of all this Covid crap……. but they wanna keep playing

  13. Ski, you’re a moron. The pilots gave concessions before anyone else. Management decided against the pre-arranged scheduled rebuild. That was 50 million in the month of April alone.

    You want to blame pilots but Management displaced thousands of pilots and created over 6000 training events that have only begun to be retrained on their new planes. No training plan was in place to deal with these self induced Management over reaches. Stay in your lane, especially when your understanding or intelligence is lacking.

  14. Sounds like DL didn’t think it thru…poor thought process..loss of experienced employees….and/or the employees finally got rid of “plantation mentality”.
    God bless, stay strong, enjoy the holidays.
    If Trump can pull this off maybe, just maybe, Delta can.

  15. Personally, when I ran the numbers a couple of months ago I was projecting that my income would be down around 25-30% this year due to COVID-related cuts and displacements, and that was before we voted for the furlough avoidance agreement this week. I don’t usually pick up many overtime (double pay) trips, so the many pilots who do are losing even more pay this year.

    I get why pay is down, and it sucks but it is what it is. I’m not complaining, but just a little perspective for the “pilots are bad” crowd. As mentioned above, the pilots were the first group to step up with relief for the company back in the spring and have been trying to negotiate a reasonable deal in line with other airlines’ agreements for a while now.

    Fact is on my narrowbody aircraft alone we lost around 100 junior pilots at the beginning of November who are now unassigned in preparation for furlough – on the payroll and available to fly, but not assigned to and trained on an aircraft. At the same time, they started requesting that pilots start planning to pick up overtime trips over the holidays. Why Delta decided to do this leading into the holiday season I don’t understand. I love working for Delta, but I think they really mismanaged this one.

    A Delta pilot

  16. Delta mismanaged situation with Pilots. Period. The Pilots are not the bad guys. This can be laid squarely at the doorsteps of Delta Management. I am a retired Delta Flight Attendant and know only too well how the Pilots are used as scapegoats because they are unionized.

  17. Crew scheduling systems was ported over to a cloud based solution. It’s a 3rd party (Amazon Web Services) that mainstains the computing need. There was an outage and instead of spinning up another instance of a server, the situation spun out of control. I suspect DL will re-negotiate the terms of services with AWS very soon.

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