Review of December 2004 Holiday Air Travel Disruptions
Pursuant to Secretary Mineta’s request of December 27, we issued a report on our review of the travel disruptions experienced over the December holiday travel period by Comair and US Airways. In conducting this review, we worked closely with the Department’s Office of Aviation and International Affairs and Office of General Counsel. We found that Comair’s problems were a function of severe weather at Cincinnati and failure of the computer system it used to schedule its crews. In Cincinnati, Comair’s flight cancellations and delays ultimately affected over 260,000 passenger itineraries. Comair has temporarily addressed its computer problems with an interim fix that will double capacity until a new crew scheduling system can be installed this summer. Additionally, we found that US Airways’ problems centered on staffing shortfalls going into the holiday travel period in two critical functions—fleet service employees and flight attendants, particularly at its Philadelphia hub. Plans to offset the staffing shortages through overtime and increasing the required number of hours worked by flight attendants did not work. US Airways canceled 405 flights during the holiday travel period, affecting more than 46,000 passengers and delayed over 3,900 flights affecting over 518,000 passengers. US Airways has subsequently made an intensive effort to increase staffing at its Philadelphia baggage operations and is increasing the monthly flying obligations of its flight attendants by 5 to 10 hours. However, with the airline in bankruptcy, increasing their flight operations, decreasing pay, and asking flight attendants to work additional hours, it is unclear whether those actions will prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.