Partly cloudy skies early will give way to cloudy skies late. Low 83F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph..
Partly cloudy skies early will give way to cloudy skies late. Low 83F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: September 8, 2022 @ 9:19 pm
Americans’ desire to travel is currently strong, but there will be fewer flights leaving and arriving at the East Valley’s major airport this summer.
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport CEO J. Brian O’Neill told the airport authority’s board of directors on June 21 that the facility’s largest carrier, Allegiant Airlines, had informed management that it would be cutting about 220 flights servicing Mesa this summer.
He told the board the cuts may end the airport’s streak of record-setting months beginning in March, when the airport set an all-time record of nearly 250,000 commercial passengers.
The airport set monthly records for passengers in April and May.
Like most major airline companies across the country, O’Neill said Allegiant cited a pilot shortage as the reason for the cuts.
In a statement to the Tribune, Allegiant wrote, “Earlier this year, due to market conditions, including industry-wide staffing shortages and high fuel prices, we proactively made some capacity reductions to our summer schedule.
“Those adjustments were made to ensure the integrity of our operations and deliver our passengers the most reliable service,” the statement continued. “We have been operating that schedule since April and have no further planned changes to capacity for this summer at AZA (Gateway’s airport code). We continue to offer 49 routes out of AZA, flying dozens of times each week.”
In the latest air travel consumer report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Allegiant Air topped the list for highest percentage of cancellations in March, with 5.4%, compared to an overall average of 1.5%.
Allegiant also topped the list of lowest on-time arrival rates in March, with 57.2%, just a little lower than Frontier Airlines with 57.8%.
At the same time, flight cancellations for all airlines were down in March, according to the DOT data – 1.5% compared with 4.5% in February. March’s overall cancellations were also lower than the 2% recorded in March of 2019, before the pandemic.
O’Neill said the airport is expecting to see 45 Allegiant flights cut for June and 90 each month for July and August.
“I’m really not sure about the continued string of record setting activity. What we’re hopeful about is that the pilot shortage gets resolved,” O’Neill said.
The Air Line Pilots Association, the largest commercial pilots’ union, has pushed back on claims by airlines that pilot shortages are causing cancellations, blaming instead airline mismanagement and poor allocation of federal relief funds during the pandemic.
A May release from the ALPA stated that “five of the seven largest passenger air carriers currently have more pilots now than they did in 2019 prior to the pandemic.”
In June, ALPA released a statement that the U.S. is training more pilots now than before the pandemic, noting that almost 8,000 have been certified in the last 12 months.
Allegiant’s cancellation issues and decision to cut Mesa flights this summer is at odds with plans for expansion. The airline has purchased 50 Boeing 737s, which are slated for delivery next year.
An Allegiant representative said in March that some of those new planes would likely be based in Mesa.
In late 2021, Allegiant also announced partnership with Mexican airline Viva Aerobus, which could see Allegiant add many destinations south of the border to its U.S. network.
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