Flight cancellations drop slightly at the end of the July 4 weekend

DALLAS– Travelers returning home from Fourth of July getaways faced flight delays on Monday, but airlines were canceling fewer flights than in the days leading up to the holiday weekend.

Since holiday weekend travel resumed on Thursday, airlines have canceled more than 2,200 flights in the United States and another 25,000 have been delayed.

The airports were crowded.

More than 9 million flyers poured into US airports between Thursday and Sunday, peaking at 2.49 million, a pandemic-era record, on Friday, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration.

By late Monday afternoon on the East Coast, more than 2,200 US flights had been delayed and more than 200 canceled, according to FlightAware.

The good news: Those numbers were down sharply from the past few days.

Flying during the peak holiday season has always been a challenge. Large crowds and summer thunderstorms can quickly overwhelm an airline’s operations. This situation was aggravated this summer by the shortage of pilots and other workers.

“It’s not just in North America, it’s everywhere,” said John Grant, an analyst at OAG, a UK-based travel date provider. “It’s a combination of available resources and demand that’s growing much faster than anyone anticipated.”

Grant said labor shortages in Europe and North America have affected airlines, their suppliers, including aircraft caterers and refuellers, airports and air traffic controllers. He sees no reason to think the situation will improve anytime this summer.

In the United States, the rate of cancellations in the past two weeks has increased by 59% compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic, likely due to a combination of weather, staffing shortages and air traffic problems.

However, the rate of delayed flights is only slightly worse than it was last summer before the pandemic – 19.7% then, 21.5% now, according to figures from FlightAware.

While some of the disruption was due to bad weather, particularly along the East Coast for part of the weekend, airlines also made some unforced errors.

American Airlines accidentally dropped pilot assignments for thousands of flights in July due to a glitch in its scheduling program. An airline spokesperson said on Monday the issue had been resolved and crew assignments had been restored for “the vast majority” of flights. He said the issue had no effect on July 4 travel.

Ed Sicher, the new president of the union representing US pilots, said the airline ignored their contract by unilaterally reassigning pilots to about 80% of affected flights.

Sicher said the union and the airline were negotiating additional compensation for pilots whose trips were abandoned and then restored during “this debacle.”

ABC News

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