Flight cancellations ease slightly as July Fourth weekend ends
Travelers flying home from Fourth of July getaways faced flight delays Monday, but airlines were canceling fewer trips than in the days leading up to the holiday weekend.
Airlines had canceled more than 2,200 U.S. flights, and 23,000 more were delayed, since holiday weekend travel picked up Thursday.
Airports were packed. More than 9 million travelers flocked to U.S. airports between Thursday and Sunday, peaking Friday at 2.49 million, a pandemic-era record, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration.
By early Monday afternoon on the East Coast, more than 1,300 U.S. flights had been delayed and nearly 200 canceled, according to FlightAware. Those numbers were down sharply from recent days.
Flying during the peak vacation season has always been challenging. Big crowds and summer thunderstorms can quickly overwhelm an airline’s operations. That has been compounded this summer by shortages of pilots and other workers.
“It’s not just in North America. It’s everywhere,” said John Grant, an analyst for OAG, a travel-date provider based in the United Kingdom. “It’s a combination of available resources and demand picking up much more quickly than anyone anticipated.”
Grant said labor shortages in Europe and North America have affected airlines, their suppliers including caterers and aircraft fuelers, airports and air traffic controllers. He sees no reason to think the situation will improve this summer.
In the U.S., the rate of cancellations over the last two weeks is up 59% from the same period in 2019, before the pandemic, likely due to a combination of weather, staffing shortages and air-traffic issues.
However, the rate of delayed flights is only slightly worse than it was in the summer before the pandemic — 19.7% then, 21.5% now, according to FlightAware numbers.
While some of the disruption was due to bad weather, especially along the East Coast for part of the weekend, airlines also made errors.
American Airlines accidentally dropped pilot assignments for thousands of flights in July because of a glitch in its scheduling program. A spokesman for the airline said Monday that the problem had been fixed and crew assignments had been restored for “the vast majority” of flights. He said the issue had no effect on Fourth of July travel.
Ed Sicher, the new president of the union representing American’s pilots, said the airline had disregarded their contract by unilaterally reassigning pilots to about 80% of the affected flights.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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