Delta Blames Covid-19 For Thanksgiving Operations Meltdown

Delta, which can go hundreds of days at a time without cancelling a flight, cancelled hundreds of flights in days over the Thanksgiving holiday.

They added a number of flights for the holidays after the period where crew are assigned to flights, and wound up without enough pilots. It’s unclear why Delta wasn’t about to match pilots to flights voluntarily with overtime, or by taking pilots off of future trips (and paying overtime to replace them).

As JonNYC points out Delta blames Covid-19, offering “We didn’t expect the effects of a sharp increase in capacity in the last part of the month to be compounded by rising number of positive COVID cases and quarantine requirements among pilots and other factors.”

The ‘and other factors’ is doing most of the work here. They do not explain the airline’s myriad failures which drove their operational meltdown, lumping them together instead under this catch-all.

No other airline suffered similar challenges over the holiday weekend. And while some pilots may have tested positive and others may have been exposed, especially related to the airline’s training center, using Covid as an excuse seems a bit like a request for a ‘get out of jail free’ card instead of taking responsibility for failing.

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. Does “…the effects of a sharp increase in capacity in the last part of the month…” translate out as “We laid on a lot of extra flights and couldn’t cover the crew requirements”?

  2. DL continues to look bad operationally during this crisis. The blocked middle seat is a marketing ploy with 1/2 empty planes and is seen as such by most people. AA which had huge issues operationally last year (mostly caused by the unions) fly a near flawless Thanksgiving week ( I know first hand since people I knew were traveling with them ).

    Has the 10 year love affair with DL hit the skids? I see a lot of complaints about the level of service verses AA or UA on FlyerTalk. Plus my own resent experience with them has been less then stellar. Old planes and bad times, cream rises to the top and DL doesn’t have much cream it looks like.

  3. Maybe if Delta wasn’t stupidly blocking out middle seats it wouldn’t have had a capacity issue.

    And don’t me started on how Delta wants to make us all alcohols by serving as much beer and gas station wine as we can drink at 7 am but won’t serve coffee or Diet Coke, even in first-class or Delta One between LAX and JFK.

  4. I agree with the sentiments above, I’ve been a Delta fan for years and was loving the middle seat blocking at the start, but it has come at the expense of too many things. They’ve cut everything premium, still no hot meals for Delta One, etc. Right now I’m a free agent for 2021, especially with paid J prices low.

  5. There is also a brain drain. They don’t have a CFO or a COO at this time and too many people took up early buyouts. They should have retired the B777 at the end of the holiday season rather than the end of Oct-that could have reduced the scheduling issues. They should be more transparent and issue refunds.

  6. Hopefully this changes that “airplanes aren’t a Covid vector” bull I’ve been seeing from the astroturfers here

  7. First of all they have someone in charge making public statements named “John Laughter”? Can’t make that up.

    Secondly, I’m glad to see COVID and the situations related to increase in infections only impacted Delta! Amazing how all the other large airlines managed to get through it just fine. Weak excuse – points to bigger issues w Delta so be prepared for ongoing issues with them as volume comes back in 2021.

  8. I second the comment about the 777s. They could have flown those on domestic routes and really made logistics of handling increased demand pretty easy. Plus, there would still be plenty of seats for social distancing.

  9. What this goes to show you is that some of these airline mergers should not have been approved by the federal government. We desperately need an additional full-service, national airline with international partners, not a regional or mostly regional carrier. American, United, and Delta need real competition. Southwest, JetBlue, and Alaska just can’t do it. Imagine if the USMCA replacement for NAFTA had lifted cabotage and Air Canada or Aeromexico could compete within the United States.

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