Almost 800 flights have been canceled and nearly 3,000 delayed today – the third consecutive day of travel misery for thousands of Americans trying to start their summer vacations.
A total of 8,900 delays and 1,470 cancellations thwarted US travels on Friday and more than 1,700 were canceled on Thursday.
Airlines have blamed a week of tumultuous weather for the severe delays and cancellations. The Midwest experienced heavy storms earlier this week, which caused immense delays as thousands of travelers tried to switch flights.
Much of the US is currently under a heat warning which can also affect travel as flying in extreme heat uses much more fuel – meaning weight restrictions are tighter.
The mass delays came as summer travel ramped up this week with thousands taking their annual vacations.
Delta and American Airlines ticketholders were among the most disappointed as the airlines’ flight schedules decreased six and four percent, respectively, according to the USA Today.
An American Airlines spokesperson told USA Today that the majority of cancellations were ‘weather-related.’
Travelers at New York’s LaGuardia (pictured) have experienced thousands of cancellations in the past few days, with almost 800 cancellations and nearly 3,000 delays on Saturday
Other airports, like Chicago O’Hare (pictured), have also experience an uptick in travelers as the summer season kicks off
The ongoing trends of frustrated travelers and high number of cancellations pushed Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to tell airline executives to clean up their act and avoid another flying catastrophe before July 4.
Buttigieg, alongside millions of other travelers, are tired of what feels like constant cancellations without so much as an apology from the airlines. The father-of-two has given airlines executives a short two-week period to clean up the mess and guarantee travelers can enjoy a patriotic weekend and summer without the airport stress.
‘At the end of the day, they got to deliver,’ Buttigieg told the TodayShow. The Democrat met with top airlines executives on Thursday to warn them to avoid the Memorial Day disaster, where 2,700 flights were canceled.
Lindsey Roeschke, Travel and Hospitality Analyst at Morning Consult, told DailyMail.com that airlines won’t be able to completely change within a two week period, as many airlines are ‘negotiating with pilot unions.’
An American Airlines spokesperson said the cancellations and delays were mainly due to weather as the lower parts of the US experienced roughened conditions on Friday (top) and Saturday (bottom)
‘It won’t be done in the next two weeks,’ she told DailyMail.com on Friday. And she said travelers’ expectations are higher than before, as traveling has been such a coveted activity that only the likes of Kim Kardashian, who can afford a private island and a private jet, could afford.
However, a recent Flight Aware survey found that cancellations for domestic flights between January 1 and June 13 were only up one percent compared to 2019, upping from two percent to three percent.
‘2022 cancellations have not been significantly higher than in past years,’ Roeschke told DailyMail.com on Friday. ‘Airlines are always going to be trying to stick to their schedules.’
Airlines for America, an association that represents major US airlines, similarly said in a statement that it ‘always strives to provide a safe and seamless journey.’
However, Roeschke said despite Buttigieg’s demand for seamless travel for the upcoming big holiday in two weeks, it is ‘unlikely we’ll get through the weekend with zero disruption.’
‘Because people are excited about traveling, frustrations and expectations are a little bit higher,’ Roeschke told DailyMail.com.
Furthermore, the analyst said consumer expectations are higher after two summers of stay-actions, which is driving the current ‘revenge travel’ trend, meaning more travelers are setting out for new places and fun destinations to make up for the last two years.
‘If you canceled your summer vacation [last year]you’re expectations might be higher,’ Roeschke told DailyMail.com on Friday, which is causing some tourists to forget that flight cancellations are sometimes inevitable with weather and don’t always know the inside information that are keeping plans on the ground, such as shortages.
‘Consumers are less aware of pilot shortages,’ she told DailyMail.com.
Travel demand is up 87 percent since pre-pandemic levels at the national level and Florida is drowning even more as travelers crave a nice cocktail on a sandy beach after two years of their living rooms. All major airports in Florida have surpassed demand by 100 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, the Today Show reported.
‘We’re definitely going to see a summer where people are traveling,’ Roeschke told DailyMail.com on Friday.
On top of the travel surge, airlines – like Delta, United, Southwest, and JetBlue – are experiencing a severe pilot shortage. Airlines have been forced to ground plans and rethink scheduling, leading to many frustrated travelers being stuck in airports and on tarmacs.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (pictured) gave major airlines two weeks to clean up their act and get travelers in the sky after months on complaints about cancellations. ‘At the end of the day, they got to deliver,’ he said
Experts now estimate that an additional 14,500 pilots will need to be hired every year for the next eight years to keep up with demand. But only 5,000 are hired on average every year.
Airlines are now rushing to lure pilots who lost their jobs in the pandemic back to work.
Piedmont and Envoy, two regional carriers owned by American Airlines, recently offered 50 percent raises to pilots as an incentive. It has put pressure on major airlines to follow suit, after many laid off pilots during the death of air travel in 2020.
Travelers should expect to embrace a seemingly difficult travel season as not only are there less pilots in the cockpit, but less TSA agents screaming to take laptops out of backpacks.
Pre-pandemic, there were roughly 50,000 TSA agents employees, but in the last two years, that number has dipped to 46,000.
Many TSA checkpoints were closed during the height of the pandemic in 2020 – creating bottlenecks at already-crowded ports.
On top of that, TSA lost an abundance of workers due to the vaccine mandate last year. Official numbers have not been released for how many agents were lost to other jobs during the pandemic, but the agency is recruiting across the country.
But it’s not just the chaos at the airport that are driving travelers insane, but the bang for their buck.
Between employee shortages and the high inflation rate driving up everything from airline tickets to food, travelers are spending 30 percent more on flights than in 2019. As the US enters the summer season, the prices have jumped up to a shocking 12.6 percent since April.
Morning Consult also found in a recent survey that 83 percent of travelers say price is a ‘top priority.’
In addition, opting for a good ole American road trip can be just as expensive as flying, as gas prices soar to an average of $5 a gallon, with other states, like California, averaging almost $6.50.
The number of travelers is surging back to pre-pandemic levels. This chart shows the same week over the last three years
A recent survey by the US Travel Association found that one in ten can’t afford to go on a road trip this year because of the increased cost and gas isn’t the only thing that’s more expensive
Previously, the record was $4.11 in the summer of 2008 at the dawn of the Global Financial Crisis.
‘Traditionally, what we might see is people considering trading off for road trips, but gas prices aren’t really affordable right now,’ Roeschke told DailyMail.com on Friday.
‘Travelers want to travel this summer, but they feel like they are in a no-win situation.’
A recent survey by the US Travel Association found that one in ten can’t afford to go on a road trip this year because of the increased cost.
Joseph Jones, a 52-year-old man from Dallas, planned to drive to Nashville, visiting various Civil War sites on the way, but he canceled his trip after spending $60 to fill up his Ford Escape.
‘I thought: “This is insane,'” I told Bloomberg in a recent interview.
Another traveler, Kevin Ng, a middle school teacher from California, told DailyMail.com his travel plans to drive from Southern California to the Pacific North West region to visit friends and family were ruined by the increases.
‘I’m in that 1 of 10. I initially had plans, but it all trickled down. Increased gas prices make the rent seem more expensive and the groceries seem more expensive.
‘There were also some issues with the company I work for with new management, and the pay got messed up.
‘The pay is coming, but at a different schedule.
‘In general, due to the world situation, our company got hit with so much disorganization and low morale where everyone is trying to blame everyone else. But yeah: no funds,’ he said.
Overall price of travel is up 18 percent since 2019, according to a recent survey by the US Travel Association, but Americans are unknown.
Roughly 25million Americans, or three quarters of a country, are planning a domestic vacation, according to April research by insurance company Allianz.
According to a Morning Consult survey, 80 percent said they still planned to try domestically and 25 percent internationally. However, Roeschke said she expects the international number to go up considering the data was collected before the mask and testing mandates were dismissed.
International travelers can also expect long wait times at customs, due to staffing problems. With fewer TSA workers stamping passports and questioning why travelers are entering the US, tourists can expect to wait hours in slow moving lines.
One weary traveler told DailyMail.com that he waited for two hours to pass through JFK in New York on Sunday night after flying in from London because there were only two CBP agents screening passengers.
‘After a seven-hour flight from London (including an aborted landing because there was too much traffic) I had to wait over two hours to get through the TSA passport control. They only had three people staffing the desks for the non-US citizens section.
‘The US citizens part appeared to be better staffed (their wait time dipped below ‘Minimum 60 minutes’ a couple of times during our wait).
‘It’s a terrible first impression for tourists visiting the United States. There were some unfortunate souls who were getting connecting flights and had to beg to get to the front of the queue so they could go out, get their bags and then check in again.
‘One woman looked on the verge of tears,’ the British man, who declined to give his name, said.