Airlines have cancelled and delayed hundreds of flights in the U.S. sparking travel chaos during the busiest Fourth of July weekend since the pandemic, which has been dubbed ‘Airmageddon.’
Around 48 million people are expected to travel this weekend with AAA estimating 3.5million would take to the air. But the actual number of passengers flying may be dramatically higher as, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.4 million travelers at airports on Thursday alone – up 17 percent from the Fourth of July Friday in 2019.
Many fliers will be facing disappointment, with 421 flights canceled by 11am, and 1,942 have been delayed, according to Flight Aware, which reported that by the end of Friday, 586 U.S. flights were called off and 7,773 were rescheduled.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who previously called on airlines to get in shape before the weekend, appeared to give up on getting things under control as he told Americans to follow his lead and claim compensation over the canceled flights.
‘Airlines offer miles as compensation for some travel issues, and you can often negotiate on this,’ tweeted Buttigieg, who said he got back $112.07 over his canceled flight on Friday after he was initially offered about $30 back.
‘Sometimes an airline will offer you points or miles as compensation, but you are entitled to a cash refund when your flight is canceled.’
Leading major U.S. airlines in cancellations on Saturday was American Airlines, which canceled 80 flights and delayed 112 flights. Delta followed behind, canceling 40 flights and delaying 156.
United Airlines has canceled 35 flights and delayed 84, and Southwest has yet to see a cancellation today, but has delayed 506 flights so far.
Since the hectic Juneteenth travel weekend, the U.S. has seen more than 12,000 flights cancelled, according to Flight Aware.
In addition to airport chaos and heavy traffic, holiday travelers will have to contend with higher prices. Average gas prices have soared 56 percent from a year ago, mid-range hotel prices have increased 23 percent, and average lowest airfares are up 14 percent.
In total, AAA projects that 47.9 million Americans will travel for the Fourth this year, up 3.7 percent from last year and close to the historic peak reached in 2019, before the pandemic struck.
Chaos continues to swamp U.S. airports amid the busiest travel weekend since the pandemic with more than 400 flights canceled and nearly 1,900 delayed as of Saturday morning. Pictured: Travelers waiting at check-in at Miami airport today
The long wait times and delays are taking a toll on passengers. Pictured, a woman sleeping in a makeshift bed at the Miami International airport on Saturday morning
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Americans on Saturday to seek compensation over canceled flights like he did
Passengers at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are fairing no better waiting to check into their flights on Saturday morning, pictured. The airport was just as hectic the previous two days
The situation is the same at the Newark Liberty Airport as United Airlines passengers check-in their luggage on Saturday
Wait times were just as long at the LAX International Airport, where travelers used kiosks to check into their flights today
Even after check-in, the New Jersey passengers must contend with equally long lines at the security check
It’s the same at the Miami airport as people travel during the chaotic Fourth of July weekend on Saturday morning
Pictured: family members hugging outside the security check-in area at Atlanta’s airport hub
Hundreds of cars arrived at the Atlanta airport before dawn on Saturday amid a spate of flight cancellations and delays
Fourth Of July travel by the numbers
Here’s how the travel projections for this holiday weekend stack up against last year, according to AAA:
- Average gas price: $3.12
- Drivers on the road: 41.8M
- Air travelers: 3.5M
- Others taking trips (bus, train): 900K
- Total travelers: 46.2M
- Average airfare: $176
- Average hotel cost: $198
- Average car rental cost: $166
- Average gas price: $4.86
- Drivers on the road: 42M
- Air travelers: 3.55M
- Others taking trips (bus, train): 2.42M
- Total travelers: 47.9M
- Average airfare: $201
- Average hotel cost: $244
- Average car rental cost: $110
In addition, the Biden administration is blaming the airlines, saying it received billions in stimulus money to keep afloat during the pandemic and should stick to the schedule it publishes.
Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday.
Buttigieg pushed back earlier this week when the head of the trade group Airlines for America blamed the FAA for delays.
‘The majority of cancellations and the majority of delays have nothing to do with air traffic control staffing,’ Buttigieg told NBC Nightly News.
Amid the Fourth of July travel chaos, many are calling on Buttigieg to act rather than give out advice on how to get compensation like he did.
One Twitter user with the handle, The Dude, wrote: ‘Hey Pete … maybe, as Secretary of Transportation, you should be meeting with FAA, major airlines and other key folk involved – slamming your fist on the table and demanding they work out these issues and a plan to address the problems … not update us on frequent flyer miles.
Another Twitter user with the handle, Limstone Caulk, added: ‘How about, people just want to go somewhere when they actually paid to go?’
Brian Jackson, another Twitter user, said he, too, wanted Buttigieg to be proactive in the situation.
‘You know [as] the Secretary of Transportation you could maybe I don’t know fix the root cause of the delays so no one would need a refund and would actually get to their destination?’
Another Twitter user with the handle Pantazopopulos wrote: ‘How bout you actually find out the reasons the airlines are having issues and see if there is a way to help, I mean, if you’re not busy, since you are Transportation Secretary.’
Sen. Bernie Sanders demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed. He also demanded that the DOT impose a $15,000 fine per passengers facing extended delays on domestic and international flights.
‘The American people are sick of airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute and delaying flights for hours on end,’ he said.
‘Given all of the generous taxpayer support that has been provided to the airline industry, all of us have a responsibility to make sure that passengers and crew members are treated with respect, not contempt.’
Sens. Edward Markey, of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, asked 10 airline CEOs this week to ‘take immediate action’ to reduce travel disruptions. The senators demanded information about how each airline decides which flights to cancel and the number of consumer refunds requested and granted.
Many on Twitter demanded action from Buttigieg to curb the cancellations and delays at airports
Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancelation they know can’t be fully staffed while Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (right) said airlines have until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday.
As Delta Air Lines led cancellations yesterday, CEO Ed Bastian wrote an apology letter to customers and vowed to make major changes, including adding extra boarding times, improving crew scheduling and bringing on more workers to aid busy travel periods.
‘We’ve spent years establishing Delta as the industry leader in reliability, and though the majority of our flights continue to operate on time, this level of disruption and uncertainty is unacceptable,’ Bastian wrote in a letter to frequent flier clients.
‘Things won’t change overnight, but we’re on a path towards a steady recovery.’
Since the start of the summer travel season, Delta has canceled more than 3,600 flights and delayed 20 percent of its total flights since the Memorial Day weekend.
Travel through Delta is likely to be further complicated after its pilots started picketing on Thursday at several major airports including LAX, JFK and Atlanta, demanding better contracts as crews are allegedly overworked during the holiday rush.
While Delta pilots are on strike, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom announced this week that its pilots were getting a 17 percent raise, CNBC reported.
The proposal includes an initial 6 percent raise at signing for about 15,000 pilots, with a 5 percent raise at the star of 2023, and then another in 2024.
The deal comes less than a week after United Airlines and its pilot’s union reached an agreement to raise wages by 14 percent within 18 months.
United’s pilot’s union said it hold a special meeting next week to evaluate the airlines offer and see how it stacks with American’s offer.
‘We will not rush to a decision and will work as a unified body to find the best course of action for the entire pilot group,’ the United union said in a statement.
Travelers are pictured packing the line for car rentals at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Saturday
As they wait to checkout cars, the passengers will be among the 42 million Americans hitting the road this weekend
In Miami, a group of passengers are pictured enduring long wait times for their flight at the international air hub
Several passengers were scene lying down next to their bags while waiting for check-in to finally begin on Saturday
Some at the Miami airport took the wait as a chance to get some sleep before boarding their flight on July 2
Pictured: a man rushing through the airport to get to his check-in area at the Atlanta airport on Saturday morning
Check-in was equally as brutal at the Newark Libtery International Airport, in New Jesey, pictured on Saturday
One woman at the New Jersey airport was pictured checking her luggage as she waited to go through security
A record 42 million people around the United States are expected to hit the road for trips over the Fourth of July holiday weekend despite average gas price surging close to $5 per gallon.
The average U.S. retail price of gasoline recently broke through $5 per gallon for the first time in history. It has gone down slightly and averaged $4.86 on Wednesday.
While the $5 price is not record from an inflation-adjusted basis, it still represents an increase of nearly $2 per gallon from a year earlier.
Despite the higher cost, gasoline demand is only 1 percent below the average for this time of year in the United States, and a record number of people are expected to travel by car for the holiday weekend.
Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, told the Houston Chronicle, ‘The high prices don’t seem to be holding many Americans back from hitting the road with the economy fully reopen.’
The 42 million figure, should it pan out, would surpass 2019’s peak, when 41.5 million people traveled by vehicle on Independence Day, according to the American Automobile Association.
Including air travel, 47.9 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday period, just 2 percent less than 2019’s 49 million, but surpassing 2021’s levels, the travel membership organization said.
‘The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,’ said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. ‘Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it´s not tapering off.’
Among the biggest boost in travel includes those going by train and bus, which is estimated to be about 2.42 million people, a dramatic increase from the 900,000 last year.
Through April 2022, 1.017 trillion vehicle miles were reported, a rate that trails only 2019 and 2018 in terms of pace, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Flight cancelation Q&A: Why are airlines slashing so many flights and what is being done to fix it?
Why are there so many delays and attempts by the airlines to cancel and delay flights?
The airlines are increasingly trying to blame delays on understaffing at the Federal Aviation Administration, which manages the nation’s airspace and hires air-traffic controllers.
The FAA has admitted it’s understaffed, especially in an important air control center in Florida, which has meant a decrease in the quality of service and an increase in delays and cancelations.
Problems were popping up well before the weekend, with some disruptions caused by thunderstorms that slowed air traffic.
Helane Becker, an airline analyst for Cowen, an investment firm, said there are many reasons for the disruptions, including weather, FAA ground stops that last too long and flight crews hitting their legal limit of working hours in a day.
Why are airlines cutting flights?
Many of them, including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue, have trimmed summer schedules to reduce stress on their operations. They are using larger planes, on average, to carry more passengers with the same number of pilots. Those steps haven’t been enough so far this summer.
Are the pilots striking?
The pilots are not striking. Federal law creates a long and difficult process before airline workers can legally go on strike. The pilots are still walking picket lines while remaining on the job at various airports.
The pilots plan to picket, not strike, on the days they’re not scheduled to work in order to bring attention to the issues.
Why are pilots attempting to picket?
Pilots have complained that thinly staffed airlines are asking them to work too many flights, with more pilots reporting fatigue.
The Air Line Pilots Association claimed earlier this week its nearly 14,000 members are working longer hours even as airlines cancel thousands of trips.
What have officials proposed to potentially fix this or punish the airlines?
The Biden administration is blaming the airlines, saying it received billions in stimulus money to keep them afloat during the pandemic and should stick to the schedule it publishes.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to Buttigieg demanding he fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed.
Congressional leaders are demanding the airlines provide answers as to why there continues to be disruptions, especially since the industry received $50 billion in relief during the pandemic in an effort to keep business afloat.