The extraordinary demand for air travel has become even more overwhelming than U.S. airlines thought.
Domestic carriers are in the midst of one of their most miserable weekends for delays and cancellations, with little to no relief in sight.
After more than 750 flights were canceled on Thursday, June 16, there were more than 10,000 delays and cancellations on Friday, June 17. According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, 8,877 flights within, into or out of the United States did not depart or land on time, and 1,473 were outright scrubbed.
The difficulties were certainly anticipated by aviation officials who expected a surge in travel after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lifting of most protocols and requirements were loosened or eliminated. That included the announcement earlier this month that travelers from overseas entering the U.S., including those who live in the states, no longer needed to require proof of a negative COVID test.
Still, while a combination of pent-up demand, pilot shortages, staffing shortages, and the usual array of summer bad weather was expected, this seems almost unprecedented.
And it’s been across the board.
On Friday, American Airlines canceled nine percent of its total flights scheduled for the day and delayed 34 percent.
Delta Air Lines canceled eight percent and delayed 36 percent.
United canceled four percent and delayed 33 percent.
And JetBlue Airways canceled seven percent but had to delay a whopping 52 percent of its schedule.
Airlines struggled over the long Memorial Day Weekend holiday canceling a combined 2,800 flights to kick off summer, which prompted Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg earlier this week to more or less telling U.S. carriers to get their act together now that the height of the summer travel season is here.
Most airlines have cut back on the number of flights they will run this summer, but even that only appears to be a band-aid on a bigger wound as fliers besiege U.S. airports. Friday was the 13th consecutive day that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 2 million passengers and the 18th day in the last 19 – just about on par with pre-pandemic levels of flying in 2019.
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