Summer air travel hits record as pilots falsify medical records

A plane is about to take off from San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco on July 15, 2023. 

A airplane is about to take off from San Francisco Worldwide Airport in San Francisco on July 15, 2023. 

Xinhua Information Company by way of Getty Pictures

Within the newest air journey information, the Transportation Safety Administration stated passenger numbers this summer will surpass the pre-pandemic 12 months of 2019; the Transportation Division hits American Airways with the most important effective but for maintaining passengers caught on the tarmac for hours; a Washington Put up investigation finds lots of of pilots could be medically unfit to fly; China drops its COVID testing requirement for inbound travelers; Google Flights says reserving the most cost effective Christmas flights ought to begin in a couple of weeks; Southwest resumes a transcontinental route out of Oakland; Avelo Airlines provides flights from Sonoma County and Eureka to Las Vegas; there’s worldwide route information from Norse Atlantic, Delta and Air Canada; American’s flight attendants vote to authorize a strike; TSA provides extra international airways to its PreCheck program; Alaska Airways introduces digital passport verifications; one other international service reopens its premium lounge at SFO; Delta completes the final section of its terminal reconstruction challenge at LAX.

Are you flying someplace this Labor Day weekend? In that case, you’re amongst 14 million travelers expected to take to the air between Sept. 1 and 6, in response to the Transportation Safety Administration. That’s an 11% enhance over the identical vacation interval final 12 months, and a bigger quantity than 2019’s Labor Day weekend. The company stated its airport officers have screened 227.5 million passengers since Memorial Day weekend, or a mean of two.5 million per day. “Journey volumes throughout this summer time journey interval are increased than 2019 (i.e., the final pre-pandemic 12 months) throughout the identical summer time journey interval, marking the busiest summer time journey interval on file,” TSA stated. Even with the crowds over Labor Day, TSA stated it expects to keep up its waiting-time requirements of half-hour or much less for the usual screening strains and 10 minutes or much less for PreCheck lanes.

A number of years in the past, the Transportation Division adopted a rule that bars airways from maintaining passengers aboard a home flight caught on the tarmac for greater than three hours (or 4 hours for worldwide departures), and this week, the company slammed American Airways with the most important effective ever assessed for violating that rule. The $4.1 million effective was issued after an investigation by DOT’s Workplace of Aviation Client Safety discovered that between 2018 and 2021, American kept 43 domestic flights on the tarmac — principally at its Dallas/Fort Price hub — “for prolonged intervals with out offering passengers a possibility to deplane,” DOT stated. Though the rule offers for some exceptions associated to security and safety, none of these utilized to the 43 stalled flights, which affected 5,821 passengers. The $4.1 million effective allowed for a $2.05 million credit score to the airline for compensation it paid to passengers on the affected flights. “Whether or not the difficulty is excessive tarmac delays or issues getting refunds, DOT will proceed to guard customers and maintain airways accountable,” stated Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. 


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Airline pilots talk with United airline’s CEO Scott Kirby in Denver International Airport on May 23, 2023. 

Airline pilots speak with United airline’s CEO Scott Kirby in Denver Worldwide Airport on Might 23, 2023. 

Hyoung Chang/Denver Put up by way of Getty Pictures

Air vacationers have been given rather a lot to fret about this summer time. First got here an investigative report from CBS Information that steered the airline trade’s ongoing issues with extreme flight cancellations and delays are more likely to proceed for years. Then a couple of weeks in the past, a New York Occasions probe discovered that the variety of plane near-misses on the nation’s airports is rather a lot increased than has been publicly reported, exacerbated by a scarcity of air visitors controllers. And now the Washington Put up studies that the federal government is quietly investigating about 600 commercial airline pilots for failing to submit full and trustworthy details about their medical information. 

These 600 are amongst a complete group of 4,800 pilots being reviewed for probably “falsifying their medical information to hide that they had been receiving advantages for psychological well being problems and different critical situations that might make them unfit to fly,” the Put up stated. An FAA official confirmed the investigation to the newspaper, and stated that up to now, the company has ordered about 60 pilots who “posed a transparent hazard to aviation security” to cease flying whereas it critiques their information. The Put up stated it was instructed by specialists that “the sheer variety of unreported well being issues presents a threat to aviation security.” Pilots should endure common bodily exams, it famous, however “the assessments are sometimes cursory and the FAA depends on aviators to self-report situations that may in any other case be tough to detect, comparable to melancholy or post-traumatic stress.”


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The federal government of China this week ended its requirement that inbound worldwide vacationers should present proof of a unfavorable COVID-19 take a look at earlier than coming into the nation. Earlier than the federal government dropped its controversial “zero COVID” coverage final December, China had a few of the world’s tightest restrictions on worldwide journey, which it has been step by step loosening since January, together with testing necessities and necessary quarantines. On the identical time, China has been increasing the number of flights that foreign carriers are allowed to operate into the country. In keeping with the Related Press, China introduced the top of its testing requirement at a media briefing in Beijing this week.

FILE: The hustle and bustle of Christmas Day at SFO on Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008.

FILE: The hustle and bustle of Christmas Day at SFO on Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008.

San Francisco Chronicle by way of Getty Pictures

It’s solely Labor Day weekend, however the journey planning web site Google Flights suggests that you simply would possibly need to guide Christmas vacation flights in only a few weeks. In an update on 2023 flight booking trends that it issued this week, the positioning steered that “for journeys beginning in mid-December, you’re most definitely to search out offers round early October. Common costs are typically lowest 71 days earlier than departure — an enormous change from our 2022 insights, which discovered that common costs had been lowest simply 22 days earlier than departure. And the standard low value vary is now 54-78 days earlier than takeoff.” As for journey from the U.S. to Europe, Google Flights famous that common costs hit their lowest ranges 72 days or extra earlier than departure. “Common airfares from the U.S. to Europe solely have a tendency to extend over time, particularly when you’re about 10 weeks from departure,” the positioning stated. 

In home route information, Southwest Airways has set Sept. 5 for the resumption of daily transcontinental service between Oakland International and Baltimore/Washington International. On the identical date, Southwest is because of introduce new every day flights from Lengthy Seashore, California, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and to revive every day service from Denver to Richmond, Virginia. On Sept. 8, low-cost Avelo Airways plans to increase its schedule between Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa and Las Vegas from two days per week to 4 (Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays), and to introduce a brand new path to Las Vegas from northern California’s Eureka/Arcata Airport with flights on Mondays and Fridays. Low-cost competitor Breeze Airways can also be increasing within the West, kicking off new service from Las Vegas to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, on Sept. 7 with three weekly flights, in addition to twice-weekly service between Los Angeles International and Pittsburgh


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An American Airlines flight attendant serves drinks to passengers after departing Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. 

An American Airways flight attendant serves drinks to passengers after departing Dallas/Fort Price Worldwide Airport. 

Robert Alexander/Getty Pictures

Only a week after American Airways pilots voted to approve a new labor contract, the service’s flight attendants have now voted to authorize a strike. Leaders of the Affiliation of Skilled Flight Attendants stated the strike authorization vote was authorised by greater than 99% of its members, who haven’t had a increase in 4 years. Nonetheless, as with the pilots, the flight attendants’ vote doesn’t imply a walkout is imminent. Below federal regulation, mediators would first need to declare that contract negotiations have reached an deadlock. Airline unions sometimes vote to authorize strikes to place extra stress on administration as contract talks progress.

The Transportation Safety Administration has added 4 extra international airways as individuals in its PreCheck expedited screening program so passengers on those carriers can now get through airport security more quickly. The 4 are Cayman Airways, French Bee, Titan Airways and Zipair. Cayman Airways flies to the Cayman Islands within the Caribbean from Los Angeles, Denver, New York, Miami and Tampa. French Bee has service from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Tahiti and Paris. Japan Airways subsidiary Zipair has routes from San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita. And Titan Airways is a European constitution airline.   


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The most recent enhancement in Alaska Airways’ effort to hurry up the check-in course of is known as Cell Confirm, a self-service program clients can use for passport verification, so they won’t have to take that step with an agent during check-in for international flights. “Finally, company will be capable of circulate via each airport touchpoint with out having to take out identification paperwork, just by controlling their digital identification on their sensible cellphone,” the airline stated. To take part within the passport course of, clients should obtain the Airside Digital Identity mobile app on an iOS or Android device, take a selfie of their face, scan their passport picture web page, and maintain their cellphone towards the within of the passport’s again cowl to learn the embedded chip. Then when the client has an worldwide flight developing, the Alaska Airways app will challenge a immediate to open the Airside app, the place the traveler will choose departure date and placement and enter a affirmation code. “This offers a one-time consent to make use of your digital identification, which alerts Alaska that you’ve got had your paperwork verified for worldwide journey and don’t have to see an agent,” the airline stated. “You’ll repeat this straightforward course of for every worldwide journey.” 

FILE: A Cathay Pacific passenger aircraft taxis toward the runway at SFO.

FILE: A Cathay Pacific passenger plane taxis towards the runway at SFO.

Robert Alexander/Getty Pictures

One other international airline has reopened its lounge for premium vacationers at San Francisco Worldwide. In keeping with Australia’s Govt Traveller, Cathay Pacific’s business and first class lounge at SFO resumed service this week, and can open its doorways a couple of hours earlier than the scheduled departure time of its flights to Hong Kong (12:55 a.m. for CX873, 1:35 p.m. for CX879). Moreover first and enterprise class vacationers on Cathay and its Oneworld companions, the lounge can be utilized by Cathay’s Diamond, Gold and Silver members in addition to Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire-level frequent fliers.

In different airport information, Delta stated it has accomplished the ultimate section of its $2.3 billion Delta Sky Method at LAX challenge 18 months forward of schedule. That final piece was the development of an airside connector with shifting walkways linking the airline’s Terminal 3 with the Tom Bradley Worldwide Terminal, “eliminating the necessity for busing between terminals,” the airline stated. Delta’s reimagined 27-gate Terminal 3 opened final April with a centralized check-in lobby, larger security checkpoint and baggage claim area, and a new Delta Sky Club. In June, the challenge’s west head home and Delta One check-in space opened.

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