'Ominous Sign' for Those Who Plan to Fly This Holiday Weekend

With flights already being canceled, July 4 weekend is a big test for airlines
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 28, 2023 2:30 AM CDT
Flying for the Holiday Weekend? Um, Good Luck
An airline employee, right, helps a traveler find her suitcase amongst the unclaimed luggage in the arrivals area of Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport, Tuesday, June 27, 2023, in New York.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Travelers waited out widespread delays at US airports on Tuesday, an ominous sign heading into the long July 4 holiday weekend, which is shaping up as the biggest test yet for airlines that are struggling to keep up with surging numbers of passengers, the AP reports. In some cases, delays ran several hours at airports in the Northeast, as thunderstorms pounded the region. At various times, the Federal Aviation Administration held up flights bound for LaGuardia Airport in New York and Reagan Washington National and Baltimore-Washington airports near the nation's capital. By early evening on the East Coast, about 5,500 flights were delayed and more than 1,600 canceled. United Airlines, with a major hub in Newark, New Jersey, canceled about 500 flights or 17% of its schedule, and JetBlue canceled 13% of its flights, according to FlightAware.

Call it the storm before the storm. The FAA was expecting about 48,000 flights on Tuesday, rising on Wednesday and peaking at more than 52,500 on Thursday, which figures to be the biggest travel day of the holiday period. People whose travel plans were disrupted took to social media to vent against the airlines. Some swore they would never fly again on whichever airline had done them wrong. One stranded couple saw other people looking for unaccompanied minors, and heard about stranded travelers who spent hours in line or slept at the airport. If large numbers of passengers are stranded or delayed this weekend, expect federal officials and the airlines to blame each other for the mess.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes the FAA, has been beating up on the airlines for more than a year. He has accused them of failing to live up to reasonable standards of customer service and suggested that they are scheduling more flights than they can handle. But the airlines are punching back. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby blamed a shortage of federal air traffic controllers for massive disruptions last weekend at its Newark hub, and the FAA has admitted that it is understaffed at key facilities including one in the New York City region. It is training about 3,000 new air traffic controllers, but most of them won't be ready anytime soon.

(More air travel stories.)

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