Northwest Airlines canceled hundreds of flights — about 10% of its schedule — this past weekend because of a pilot shortage. This isn’t a new problem: It’s been happening consistently at the end of the month, like clockwork.
Business travel writer Joe Brancatelli warned about this in a recent column:
Northwest is trying to operate with about 25 percent fewer pilots and co-pilots than it employed in 2000. The inevitable result: massive crew shortages at the end of June when Northwest’s remaining pilots “timed out” and could no longer fly. (According to federal regulations, pilots cannot fly more than 100 hours a month.) Northwest canceled more than 1,200 flights during the last 10 days of June. The final 10 days of July and August won’t be much better.
Brancatelli’s prediction looks to be coming true. Before you book that ticket on Northwest, check the calendar. Consider an alternative airline, if it exists. If you’ve already bought tickets, for travel at the end of a month, try to show up early and standby for an earlier flight. And keep those fingers crossed.