The COVID pandemic has made planning a vacation more volatile than ever over the past two years. Throughout the waves of variant surges, we’ve all likely planned trips thinking we were in the clear and then had to cancel when numbers starting soaring again. But over the last few months, COVID cases and hospitalizations have been falling steadily, and many of us are now looking toward summer 2022 as a safe time to finally travel again. Your plans might have to change depending on where you’re going, however. United Airlines just announced that it is dropping flights to four popular cities for the summer. Read on to find out if the latest cuts will affect your upcoming travel plans.
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United Airlines has confirmed that it is getting rid of several routes from Cleveland, Ohio, in the upcoming months, Cleveland.com reported on March 14. The carrier is discontinuing seasonal summer routes this year from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to Pensacola, Florida, and Portland, Maine, as well as two different popular vacation cities in South Carolina: Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach. United serviced the routes from around Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day on small, 50-seat aircrafts flown by the carrier’s various regional partners.
A spokeswoman for United Airlines told Cleveland.com that these flight cuts can be attributed to the national pilot shortage. The airline has been vocal about the issue with staffing for months now. In Dec. 2021, United CEO Scott Kirby revealed that the carrier had to ground nearly 100 regional jets because there was no one to fly them.
United is also working to address the ongoing lack of pilots by launching its own flight school, the spokeswoman told Cleveland.com. The carrier’s school, United Aviate Academy, opened earlier this year outside of Phoenix, Arizona. The school will train “as many as 5,000 pilots this decade, and create a steady pipeline of highly qualified people, most of whom will first fly for one of our regional partners before joining United,” per the spokeswoman.
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These four flight routes were offered for the first time in summer 2021, Cleveland.com reported. According to the news outlet, all the flights ran three times each week during this time, geared toward leisure travelers. US airlines have been focused on leisure travelers over the past year as a result of the COVID pandemic. But now, business routes are being slowly added back, while leisure routes are being dropped. United’s schedule this summer is set to include seven flights per day to Newark, New Jersey, six per day to Chicago, Illinois, three or four each day to Denver, Colorado, and one to two each day to San Francisco, California.
The United spokeswoman pointed out that the carrier is not getting rid of all of its leisure-oriented routes from the Cleveland airport. She said that flights are still expected to occur in summer 2022 from Cleveland to both Fort Lauderdale and Orlando in Florida, as well as two destinations abroad: Cancun, Mexico, and Nassau in the Bahamas.
United is working to get its schedule back to pre-pandemic levels. According to Cleveland.com, the carrier is still scheduled to offer 221,378 available seats to and from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in June 2022—even with the new cuts—which is 84 percent of what United offered in 2019 before the pandemic the hit. But that number is substantially higher than what the airline offered in June 2020 and 2021, which were 26,406 seats and 148,497 seats, respectively.
“As a globe and as a society, we are moving into the endemic phase where we live with COVID instead of going into lockdown when COVID happens so again I think we will have a very strong summer as a result,” Kirby said during a Jan . 20 interview on CNBCs Squawk Box†
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