Tourists and others flying to gain access to Southern Montana and Yellowstone National Park faced delays and rerouted flights on Sunday after airlines at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Montana experienced a diminished supply of commercial jet fuel that is plaguing Western states.
In just 24 hours, at least 10 flights experienced schedule and route modifications after their respective airlines struggled to find enough fuel to carry passengers to their destinations scattered across the U.S. By Monday, the airport was back to its originally scheduled programming but administrators are still cautious and aware of the unpredictability that the rest of the summer holds.
Like other industries suffering under rising demand, looming inflation, and price hikes, jet fuel is not immune to the supply-chain issues that outlive the government-mandated COVID-19 lockdowns that caused them. Between a higher demand for travel, fire suppression efforts to contain what is turning into the “worst wildfire season in a decade,” and a lack of drivers to transport fuel, more shortages are expected.
“I think it’s kind of the perfect storm,” Bozeman Airport Director Brian Sprenger told The Federalist. “There are just a number of factors and each location is going to be a little bit different … The remoteness of Montana means that there’s going to be more challenges just on pipeline and transport. And then you toss in the fact that we’re a very, very popular destination right now … so that obviously means that we have a lot more flights, a lot more destinations.”
In addition to seeing a rise in air traffic post-pandemic, Sprenger also said the flights are more “long-haul” and “use a lot of fuel” that can’t always be sustained by a limited fill-up and require more stops.
President Joe Biden’s anti-oil and gas policies also aren’t cutting states struggling with shortages any slack. As the Biden administration continues to crusade against pipelines and ignores surging gas prices to assure Americans that hot dog cookout prices have dropped by cents, the industry’s full recovery from coast to coast appears to be nowhere in sight.
Some state governments, such as South Dakota, are stepping in to speed up the fuel delivery process but others are less inclined to act as fire season rages on and state-run agencies are forced to compete with airlines for the fuel used to conduct fire suppression from the air.
While remote locations tend to suffer more, Sprenger said commercial airlines at major urban airports have also made travel modifications based on their ability to obtain and disperse jet fuel.
“These sudden changes create some domino effects on the supply chain for jet fuel and so what we would have seen in past years, we just don’t have the same cushions that we would have had before. And you’re seeing that at a lot of destination airports. We’ve heard of fuel shortages in hub airports,” Sprenger said. “The difference is, they can cancel a number of flights and you may not even notice it because there are other alternatives. You notice it more in places like Montana where if your flight does cancel, it might be the next day before you get to travel.”