HOUSTON (KIAH) – In the midst of the pandemic, many holiday travelers are stuck in airports or experiencing flight delays. aviation officials say with COVID-19 numbers skyrocketing again this is a cause for concern.

Travel officials say the passenger load is up and airports are packed following one of the busiest holiday seasons. However, some aviation officials believe the COVID-19 rules fell to the waist side.

Janine Iannarelli, who is an aviation consultant, said the emphasis on social distancing has become more relaxed, especially at the gates as people are boarding the plane.

Speaking specifically during the holidays, most flights were full. If you remember flying at the start of the pandemic, the middle seats were open. 

Officials say COVID-19 is the biggest driver for those choosing to fly on private planes rather than commercial airlines.

Although private planes are expensive for the average consumer, it provides flexibility. You’re also flying with known crew members, the aircraft is smaller, and you leave from a separate terminal. 

“You have to create a health core door and one of the ways to do that is by utilization of a private aircraft. Because at the end of the day, you get in your car, you drive to a non-congested terminal,” said Iannarelli.

Iannarelli says when people fly private planes, they have access to more airports and routes. That’s nearly 5,000 locations compared to commercial airlines having access to about 350 airport locations across the country.

On the other hand, many pilots were laid off when our economy took a hit at the beginning of COVID-19. since then, the aviation industry, has been slow to rebuild its staff.

In fact, Iannarelli says this pilot shortage was forecasted years before the pandemic. Senior pilots were retiring due to personal choice or age limitations. However, this issue has grown on a much larger scale.

Now that people are flying more frequently again, a lot of airlines don’t have enough trained and certified pilots, flight attendants, or engineers to fly as often as they could before.

“As people went out to look for other jobs, they might have been hired. But, also, so many of the people from the airlines took retirement. Consequently, they’re not going to return to service. The other thing is the aviation industry I’m not sure has created the most successful pipeline from high school or university graduate into the industry,” said Iannarelli.

Iannarelli says the aviation world is a very demanding industry that’s not easily understood because it requires long hours and serious concentration.

The goal now is to encourage students to pursue a career in aviation. More specifically, younger girls. Officials say less than three percent of the aviation industry are women.

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