Airlines for America (A4A) and CQ Roll Call hosted the 2023 Summer Travel Summit. A4A projects U.S. airlines to carry an all-time high 257 million passengers from June 1-August 31, 2023. Despite having to trim schedules, U.S. airlines will be able to accommodate demand by using larger aircraft. In fact, year over year, U.S. airlines are adding 297,000 seats per day to accommodate 243,000 more passengers per day.
"U.S. airlines have been hiring aggressively for positions across the industry. We now have the most workers we've had in 20 years. Airlines also are reducing their flight schedules to accommodate current realities, including the FAA's air traffic controller staffing shortages," said Nicholas E. Calio, A4A President and CEO. "It has been said time and time again that the U.S. is the gold standard for aviation safety. We take pride in that, and we work hard at that every single day. It takes collaboration throughout the National Airspace System to maintain that safety record. Simply put, safety is – and always will be – our top priority."
A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich presented a summer outlook, followed by a panel discussion between A4A Senior Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Policy Sharon Pinkerton, former NATCA president Paul Rinaldi and TSA Assistant Administrator for Strategic Communications and Public Affairs Alexa Lopez. The panel was moderated by CQ Roll Call congressional reporter Valerie Yurk.
"Airlines are doing everything they can to prepare for this peak season," said Heimlich. "Roughly 487,000 full-time equivalent workers at U.S passenger airlines. That number is definitely above the pre-pandemic level. It is also the highest number since October 2001."
"We want this summer to be a summer in which we are achieving our best operational reliability. It's in our interest to make sure that our customers are treated right and have a good experience because we compete for their repeat business. I think we've gone above and beyond to make sure we are ready for the summer demand," said Pinkerton. "I don't necessarily think pulling down flights is a sustainable approach for the long term."
"As we look at FAA reauthorization, we don't want another five years of being stagnant or losing ground. We want to be bold. We need to understand what's going on with our aviation system," said Rinaldi. "As you hear, the airlines are cutting back their flights. We should be growing aviation in this country – it's such an economic engine – we shouldn't be reducing aviation."
"TSA is definitely prepared," said Lopez. "Last weekend, we hit a record, screening the highest number of passengers screened since the beginning of the pandemic, and we expect this summer to be our busiest. Our staffing levels are much better thanks to finally securing better pay for all TSA employees."
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