Air travelers across the U.S. faced extensive flight cancellations and delays this weekend, fueled by booming travel demand and widespread staff shortages.
From Friday to Sunday, airlines flying into, in or out of the United States canceled more than 1,400 flights. FlightAware, A flight-tracking website is leaving some travelers on their long-awaited summer vacation with goosebumps and anger. Additionally, more than 14,000 flights are delayed this holiday weekend, according to the site’s data.
Some airlines appeared to be struggling to handle passenger numbers approaching or in some cases even pre-pandemic levels. On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration screened more passengers — 2.49 million people – more than any other day this year. This surpassed the 2.18 passengers screened on July 1, 2019, before the pandemic.
The experience was frustrating for some passengers on American carriers. On Saturday, 1,048 — or 29 percent — Southwest Airlines flights were delayed, as were 28 percent of American Airlines flights, according to FlightAware. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines had similar problems, with 21 percent and 19 percent of their flights delayed. On Sunday, the holiday weekend, commuters seemed to take a break from their worst troubles.
“Obviously, if your flight is delayed or canceled, it’s a disaster,” he said. Robert W. Mann JrA former airline executive, he now runs airline consultancy RW Mann & Company.
In a typical month, about 20 percent of flights are delayed or canceled, Mr. Mann noted. But this holiday weekend, it’s about a 30 percent – 50 percent increase, he said. “It’s a little worse than usual,” he said.
The pilot-scheduling system at American Airlines added pressure on air carriers this weekend, helping pilots drop thousands of flight assignments for July. The airline said on Saturday that it did not expect any “operational impact” due to the glitch.
But Allied Pilots Association, the union for American Airlines pilots said the airline unilaterally reinstated canceled flights without the pilots’ consent. The union said it would press the airline to pay an “inconvenience premium” to pilots affected by scheduling system problems.
Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian issued an apology last week amid mounting passenger frustrations this summer.
“As we rebuild our operations deep into 2020, many of you may experience disruptions in your travels, sometimes significantly, to accommodate demand,” said Mr. Bastian wrote. A post on LinkedIn. He added: “Although the majority of our flights operate on time, this level of disruption and uncertainty is unacceptable.”
In an email, Delta spokeswoman Morgan Durant said the airline was managing the “combined factors” of bad weather and air traffic control delays, which affected flight crew availability. The airline is “working around the clock to make Delta’s operations as resilient as possible and minimize the ripple effect of the disruption,” Mr. Durant said. “However, some operational challenges are expected this holiday weekend.”
However, as the holiday weekend progressed, flight issues began to ease. By Sunday evening, Delta had canceled 1 percent of its flights, and 15 percent of Southwest Airlines flights were delayed, according to FlightAware.
Southwest said Sunday that it was “providing a safe, reliable experience today across our network, with fewer than 10 total cancellations today.”
American Airlines and United Airlines did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
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