Delta cancelled 67 flights on Christmas Eve day. They had already cancelled 123 flights on Christmas Day, or 10% of their schedule, by 6 a.m. on the East Coast. In contrast American Airlines had cancelled only one flight.
Over Thanksgiving Delta’s meltdown seemed to be a combination of poor operational management, and failing to use the tools available to them. Leading into the holiday the airline was hit with bad weather, but today’s cancellations appear driven by lack of available crew. This despite a willingness to spend large amounts of money on staff to avoid cancelling flights.
Delta more than any other U.S. airline has prided itself – and sold itself – on reliability. In the past 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 Christmas holidays 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.
Is Delta’s reliability magic gone, perhaps along with the managers who took buy outs as part of the airline’s cost containment during the pandemic? Has Delta lost the managers who knew how to run the airline and balance flights and crew resources? This would be a bad omen for the airline’s future reliability.