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It came off as a rare moment of candor for the airline industry on Wednesday, when United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told analysts and reporters that after a year of constant disruptions, including canceled and delayed flights, lost luggage and worse, passengers could expect more of that in 2023.

“The system simply can’t handle the volume today, much less the anticipated growth,” Kirby said. “There are a number of airlines who cannot fly their schedules. The customers are paying the price.”

The year 2022 was one of the most stress-inducing for consumer air travelers in recent memory. A surge in travel demand after airlines slashed resources during the pandemic caught carriers flat footed. Unable to adequately staff flights, they nevertheless continued to sell record-breaking numbers of tickets, resulting in more than one in five flights being delayed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics — the highest rate of delays since 2014.

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