Flight delays and cancellations are set to be a disaster this holiday weekend – what can travelers do?


CHICAGO (CBS) – Buckle up for a weekend of travel chaos – from Thursday, delays and mass cancellations are expected to worsen ahead of the holiday weekend.

As CBS 2’s Marissa Perlman reported, we’re learning that your fate is in the hands of the airlines — and if their skeleton staff shows up for your flight.

You know you can’t get your time back, but what about your money?

Do a quick social media search for travel delays in Chicago. Stories of pure travel chaos at O’Hare and Midway International Airports and beyond are everywhere.

Todd Larson wrote in a tweet that he spent “10 hours at the airport and never made it to Chicago.”

Vikki, who tried to cross Chicago, said she arrived in Boston after about 30 hours of travel.

“I’m not sure I want to fly again,” she tweeted.

Hundreds of flights are canceled every day. There were nearly 6,000 flight delays and 670 cancellations across the US on Thursday alone

And with the 4th of July weekend – set to mark the peak of summer travel – is it even worth flying, or should we all stay home?

“It’s just when these cancellations are happening – we’re seeing 6.7% of flights canceled by some airlines,” said transportation expert Joe Schwieterman, a professor at the University’s Graduate School of Public Service. DePaul and Director of DePaul’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development

Schwieterman has come out with a new study shedding light on the degradation of air travel.

Read the study

More and more people are flying – numbers comparable to those seen in 2019 – although airlines have less capacity than they did then. The shortage of air traffic controllers, planes and pilots creates a precarious situation.

“You just don’t have places or flights to put people on if they get canceled,” Schwieterman said. “That’s what’s different about this vacation.”

The study shows that the share of flights canceled by the four largest US airlines has been 5% or more in recent weeks.

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If that happens this holiday weekend, airlines will not be able to accommodate passengers back on flights the same day – or even the next day.

At 8%, you could be looking at up to two nights late for some passengers.

“It’s going to be a frenzy if that happens,” Schwieterman said.

And if you’re late, you won’t be able to recover your time at your destination. But what about your money?

“There’s no tradition or expectation of paying for anything other than your plane ticket,” Schwieterman said.

And what about the tens of billions of dollars in pandemic aid airlines have received to help keep workers on the job?

“They just haven’t been able to retain their drivers and their talent, so to speak,” Schwieterman said.

And while it might drive you crazy to hear your pilot tell you to “be patient,” the expert instead says it’s better to prepare a plan B, and maybe even a plan C.

It can be an alternative route by train or by car.

There are also ways to mitigate your risk of experiencing an in-flight disaster. Experts say first, book a nonstop flight to your destination if you can – this will eliminate your risk of missing a connecting flight if your original flight is delayed.

Second, if possible, book the first flight in the morning – this will also avoid getting caught in the ripple effect of delays.

Finally, a lot of luggage has gone missing in the airport chaos, so experts say if possible, stick to hand luggage.


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