Delta’s Easter flight cancellations trickle into Monday

Travelers wearing face masks check in through plexiglass dividers at Delta counters at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Thursday, July 2, 2020.(Hyosub Shin /Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Travelers wearing face masks check in through plexiglass dividers at Delta counters at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Thursday, July 2, 2020.(Hyosub Shin /Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Delta Air Lines, which canceled about 100 flights on Easter Sunday, expected to scratch another 10 on Monday because of staffing challenges.

The Atlanta-based airline said the flight cancellations were caused by staffing issues as some pilots returned to active status and large numbers of employees were absent to get COVID-19 vaccinations. Those factors come on top of employees’ holiday time off.

Delta expected to be able to keep the number of flights canceled Monday to about 10 out of the more than 3,800 scheduled.

To quickly rebook passengers, Delta used middle seats, which the airline had planned to keep empty, for pandemic social distancing, through the end of the month. The airline last week announced it would begin filling those seats in May.

The move comes as more travelers take to the skies than at any point since the pandemic began. More than 1.5 million passengers passed through the nation’s airport security checkpoints on Sunday. Delta said its had more than a million passengers over the last few days.

Delta had about 3,900 flights scheduled for Sunday, meaning it canceled about 2.6% of its flights that day.

Delta said the majority of passengers whose flights were canceled were rebooked for the same day.

“We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience,” the airline said in an email. “As more of our workforce becomes vaccinated and more pilots return to active flying, we are confident in the reliability of our flight schedule heading into the spring and summer.”

Last year amid the sharp decline in travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta put 1,700 junior pilots on inactive status. They have had to go through training before flying again. Pilot retraining was an issue for Delta late last year, too, causing mass flight cancellations over the Thanksgiving and Christmas periods.

What’s more, the Federal Aviation Administration says that, after each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, pilots cannot fly in the cockpit as crew for 48 hours, due to potential side effects.

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