Americans heading to the airport to join their families for the July 4 national holiday were in for a nasty surprise on Saturday, especially as airlines have already canceled hundreds of flights due to staffing issues.
As of midday, 600 flights had already been canceled, with nearly 3,100 other flights delayed, according to Flightaware.com.
The situation was already difficult the day before, according to a special site that listed 587 canceled flights and nearly 8,000 delays on Friday out of a total of 3,060 flights worldwide.
These setbacks for American travelers have a fundamental trend: The United States’ airlines, which have 15% fewer staff than before the pandemic, are struggling to handle the huge influx of passengers onto their planes.
Companies in the sector said they were working to address the problem, ramping up their recruitment campaigns for pilots and other categories of staff and reducing the number of seats available for passengers.
Officials in the aviation sector have cited other aggravating external factors, particularly weather or covid.
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg reminded passengers on Twitter on Saturday that they are entitled to a refund in the event of a cancellation.
Delta Air Lines pilots also demonstrated on Thursday to demand a pay increase based on the number of overtime hours they work.
“Overbooking is clearly irresponsible. Coming out of the pandemic, we have more flights planned than people flying,” lamented Jason Ambrosi, one of their union representatives, on the CNN channel on Saturday.
Pilots, tired, don’t want to disturb passengers, “but it’s a question of safety,” he assured.
The large-scale cancellation did not stop crowded airports, however, the transport security agency (TSA) estimated the number of checks-nearly 2.5 million on Friday-“returned to pre-pandemic”.
According to the American Automobile Association, a record 42 million Americans traveled by car this weekend during the festivities.