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The Logistics of Flying People from Place to Place Can Be Broken

American Airlines had 2,000 flights canceled this past weekend.

For several weeks we have been regaled with stories of container ships tied up off the coast of California, waiting their turn to be unloaded. So why the backup? A combination of events, mostly stemming from the pandemic, have interacted with one another to make the logistics system get “gummed up!” Some of those issues include:
  • Containers not being in the right place
  • The slow down in demand at the start of the pandemic
  • The burgeoning economy pushing up demand
  • The Christmas shopping surge that should have been fed by an August surge in shipping
  • Factories being slow to turn up the manufacturing process
  • Not enough truck drivers shuttling containers to distribution warehouses from the ships
  • A shortage of rail cars to take containers to other parts of the nation
  • Remember the ship stuck in the Suez Canal?
  • More?

This past weekend there was a problem with “shipping people” from one place to another via American Airlines.
  • There were some weather issues
  • The aircraft distribution of air frames got screwed up, with planes not being in the right city
  • Crews were not in the right place at the right time
  • Crew rest was likely another issue
  • Crews that commute by air from home to their destination flight could not get there
  • Airlines are still ramping up flights and staffing from the time period when they drew down their staff earlier in the pandemic
  • More people are flying, or trying to fly

You see, moving containers and moving people have similar challenges. Timing is everything and one glitch in the system screws up other parts of the system.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.
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