Major airlines face challenges as they try to return their mothballed aircraft to service, and to find crews to handle a growing demand as the pandemic travel restrictions loosen.

However, despite the fact that airlines are at almost pre-pandemic levels before Thanksgiving holiday (when 4.2 million people will travel by plane), dozens of passenger aircraft remain abandoned in the Mojave desert. This is where they were stored after the pandemic crippled the travel industry.

Chaos reigns in airports across the country as hundreds of thousands of flights are grounded. Many airlines blamed staff shortages, while others speculated that COVID-19 vaccine mandates were at fault. 

American Airlines said, among other things, that more than 1,200 of its flights were canceled in a single weekend because of staff shortages or unfavorable weather conditions. 

Photos from the air show Delta, United and many international commercial jets hibernating in Victorville at Southern California Logistics Airport. This boneyard is one that remains used for storage of commercial aircraft.

Earlier this year, Qantas revealed its mechanics have used ‘wheel whackers’ – repurposed broom handles – to spook away rattlesnakes and scorpions sheltering in the wheel wells of planes grounded in Victorville.

Aerial photos taken on November 6 show numerous cargo and passenger planes grounded at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California

Photographs taken from the air on November 6, show many passenger and cargo planes that were grounded at Southern California Logistics Airport, Victorville.

Qantas airplanes are seen in protective covering. An airline mechanic said earlier this year that crews have encountered rattlesnakes and scorpions while maintaining the planes

Protective coverings can be seen on Qantas planes. One mechanic from Qantas said that the crews encountered scorpions as well as rattlesnakes during maintenance of their aircrafts earlier in this year.

“The area is known for its rebellious ‘rattlers” who love to snuggle up in warm rubber tires and the brakes of the plane wheels and brakes,” Tim Heywood, Qantas engineer manager in Los Angeles, stated in June.

‘…We’ve encountered a few rattlesnakes and also some scorpions, but the wheel whacker does its job and they scuttle off. This is a very unique way to look after the aircraft in storage. It also serves as a sign of how bizarre this past year was.

Qantas A380s are not likely to spend more than a few hours on the ground in their service life, however the airline indicated that it could leave the A380s parked until the demand from international travelers returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Scores of FedEx planes are among those grounded in the desert as some planes prepare to return to domestic and international service

Hundreds of FedEx aircraft are grounded as they prepare for return to international and domestic service.

Experts say extensive safety measures are being taken to protect the integrity of grounded jets, such as the Delta plane pictured here in Victorville, California

 Experts say extensive safety measures are being taken to protect the integrity of grounded jets, such as the Delta plane pictured here in Victorville, California

Before the Australian government, this airline forecasted that it would lift its ban on international travel.

The airline is one of many that plans to park at least some aircraft until the end of next year, despite traveling returning to pre-pandemic levels.

American Automobile Association predicts that there will be 4.2 Million air travel for Thanksgiving, an increase of the last year’s figure of 2.2 Million.

The figure shows an 80 percent increase in air travel. However, it is 9 percent lower than what it was in 2019, which saw 4.6 millions people fly to Thanksgiving.

International airlines, including China Airlines, are also using the desert boneyard for storage

China Airlines is one of the international carriers that uses this desert boneyard as storage.

Experts say planes are stored in the desert because of its dry heat that prevents moisture from corroding the aluminum

Experts believe that planes can be stored in deserts because it is dry and prevents the aluminum from being corroded by moisture.

Pictured: Commercial jets remained grounded in California desert as scorpions, venomous snakes, and staff shortages curtail efforts to return planes to service

Pictured: California Desert scorpions and venomous snakes kept commercial jets grounded while staff shortages prevented them from returning to flight

Pictured: airplanes from various airlines are parked at Southern California Logistics Airport

Photo: Airplanes of various airlines are parked in Southern California Logistics Airport

The American Automobile Association is forecasting 4.2 million air travelers for the Thanksgiving holiday

American Automobile Association predicts that there will be approximately 4.2 Million Thanksgiving travelers.

The US Commercial Safety Aviation Team – which works to reduce aviation-related fatalities – developed an extensive list of safety elements to help guide operators through pandemic-related challenges including plane storage, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said.

Maria Njoku stated that safety measures include covering engines and pitot tubes to protect them from contamination by water or insects; checking for nesting animals in aircraft stored at storage facilities, as well as ensuring they are covered properly.

Airlines for America is a lobbying organization that represents major North American Airlines. It stated its members adhere to strict protocols before preparing the planes for takeoff.

‘[The]According to Carter Yang, a spokesperson for, airlines use the comprehensive storage methods provided by aircraft manufacturers. They also conduct thorough post-storage inspections in order to return aircraft back into service.

Staff shortages seem to be hampering attempts to bring some planes back into service. 

Business Insider reports that Southwest Airlines chief operating officer Mike Van de Veen told his employees last month, “staffing buffer” was needed to avoid schedule cuts during winter.

 The executive in early October said staff shortages contributed to the mass cancellation of nearly 2,000 weekend flights.

Some airlines have said they're struggling with staff shortages

Some airlines say they have a staff shortage

United Airlines didn’t respond to’s request for comment. However, it stated in its third quarter earnings report that returning grounded aircraft to service would fuel growth next year.

To meet the anticipated record-setting demand for global travel, it plans to return its Pratt and Whitney powered Boeing 777s to its fleet in 2019.

A faulty engine design led to the Boeings being grounded in April.

“From the return business travel, to the planned opening of Europe, early indications for opening the Pacific, we are facing headwinds that have turned into tailwinds,”

Scott Kirby, chief executive officer of United Airlines, stated in a statement.

“We believe United is better placed to lead recovery than any airline around the globe.”

Ted Gablin of Redlands Airport Association stated that two-thirds Southwest Airline’s aircraft were at one time grounded at Victorville boneyard. A spokesperson for the airport said most of their planes are back in service.

He said that maintenance crews use a variety of measures to keep planes safe and freeloading animals out when they are grounded.

Gablin explained that the deserts are an ideal location for storage of long-term aircraft because they are notoriously dry.

He said, “Believe or not, aluminum is the primary metal used to build aircraft. And it can corrode as well as steel.” “Moisture is the magic ingredient to that.”