David Koenig, author of AP Airlines
DALLAS (AP) – Passengers flying home since July 4 faced flight delays on Monday, but airlines are canceling fewer flights than during the weekend.
Since the holiday weekend trip extended to Thursday, the airlines have canceled more than 2,200 U.S. flights and delayed another 25,000.
More than 9 million flyers crowded U.S. airports between Thursday and Sunday, reaching 2.49 million on Friday, a record for an epidemic era, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration.
As of Monday afternoon on the east coast, more than 2,200 U.S. flights had been delayed and more than 200 canceled, according to FlightAware.
The good news: those numbers have plummeted in recent days.
Flights during the peak vacation season are always challenging. Huge crowds and summer thunderstorms can quickly overwhelm an airline’s activities. This has been further complicated by the lack of pilots and other staff this summer.
“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 picking up much faster than anyone expected.”
Grant said labor shortages in Europe and North America have affected airlines, their suppliers of caterers and aircraft fuel, airports and air traffic controllers. He sees no reason to think the situation will improve anytime this summer.
In the United States, the cancellation rate in the last two weeks is 59% higher than the same period in 2019, before the epidemic, probably due to a combination of weather, staff shortages and air-traffic problems.
However, the rate of delayed flights is slightly worse than last summer before the epidemic – then 19.7%, now 21.5%, according to FlightAware numbers.
Although some disruptions were caused by bad weather, especially on the east coast for part of the weekend, the airlines also made inevitable errors.
American Airlines accidentally dropped pilot assignments for thousands of flights in July because of errors in its schedule program. A spokesman for the airline said Monday the issue had been fixed and crew recruitment for the “huge majority” flight had been restored. He said the issue has no bearing on the July 4 trip.
Ed Sicher, the new president of the American Pilots’ Union, said the airline had ignored their contracts by unilaterally rescheduling about 80% of the pilots on damaged flights.
Sisher said the union and the airline were discussing additional salaries for pilots who missed the trip, then recovered during “this disaster.”
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