“Nothing at LaGuardia Airport is $15, but it was better than nothing,” Courchesne, who works at a DC consultancy on K Street, told The Washington Post. “I went and got a bunch of Jolly Ranchers. I figured $15 would have covered three family-size packs, and that’s exactly what happened.”
With tens of millions of Americans expected to fly or drive over the Fourth of July weekend, many are facing summer travel that has been slowed down by flight delays and cancellations, and made more expensive by high fuel prices.
An estimated 47.9 million travelers in the United States between Friday and Monday represents an increase of nearly 4 percent, compared to last year, according to AAA – approaching the level of summer travel not seen in the country since before the coronavirus pandemic. While most of those travelers will be on the road, more than 3.5 million are expected to be on planes — that is, if their flights aren’t delayed or cancelled.
More than 3,800 flights into, to or from the United States were delayed as of Saturday afternoon, according to the flight tracking website. reported flight. Southwest Airlines was showing 715 delayed flights on Saturday, accounting for twenty percent of their total trips, the data shows. American Airlines showed 643 delayed flights, which represents 20 percent of its total trips. Delta was at 368 delayed flights, good for 13 percent of the airline’s trips, according to FlightAware. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport led Saturday’s delays among US airports, followed by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
More than 2,200 flights were canceled on Saturday, according to FlightAware. American, Delta and United Airlines lead the way among US carriers for Saturday cancellations.
The holiday disruptions come at a time when the airline industry has promised a renewed focus about reliability. While weather has always been an issue for airlines, staffing shortages during the pandemic have further hampered carriers’ ability to recover from delays. Several unions representing airline workers have spoken out and staged demonstrations to draw attention to the stress experienced by employees. On Thursday, more than 1,200 Delta pilots and staff held demonstrations at multiple airports stretching from New York to Los Angeles to demand higher wages.
On Saturday, the Allied Pilots Association, the union for American Airlines, said a glitch in scheduling software the night before allowed pilots to walk off assignments, which could leave more than 12,000 flights unstaffed for the month. The airline said the “vast majority of affected trips” were restored and an effect on operations was not expected.
Analysts with travel booking app Hopper are projecting domestic airfares averaging $437 roundtrip, a 45 percent increase, compared to 2019. Some of the most popular U.S. destinations this weekend include Las Vegas, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles and Miami, says Hopper.
“The volume of travelers we expect to see during Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is picking up steam,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, in a press release. “People are ready for a break, and even though things are costing more, they are finding ways to take much-needed vacations.”
Still, problems with air travel continue, despite US airlines receiving billions in pandemic relief funds to keep workers on the job. When Americans were ready to fly again, the expectation was that the airlines would be ready for them, especially during a time some called the year of “Voyage of revenge”. More than 2.46 million people were tested last Sunday by Transportation Security Administration officials, the highest volume since February 2. 11, 2020.
But tens of thousands of combined delays and cancellations marred travelers’ celebration of busy Juneteenth and Father’s Day weekends last month. Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have blamed each other for the disruption to air travel.
The discussion surrounding the efficiency of air travel intensified this week when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation to “fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for each flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed.”
“The American people are fed up with airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute and delaying them for hours on end,” Sanders said. tweeted.
Buttigieg, who has called the airline industry “to deliver”For the American people, he told on Saturday about the cancellation of his own connecting flight on Friday. in a series of tweetButtigieg said travelers should be “entitled to a cash refund when their flight is cancelled.”
“In the beginning, the airline offered 2,500 miles, which I estimate is worth about $30. But I claimed the refund for the canceled part and it turned out to be $112.07,” Buttigieg wrote. “Airlines offer miles as compensation for some travel problems, and you can often negotiate on this. That is between you and the airline. But you are entitled to cash refunds for canceled flights; that is a requirement that we will continue to apply.
While airline passengers grapple with reliability issues, millions of road travelers are still grappling with what they have to pay at the pump.
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $4.82 as of Saturday, according to AAA, which is slightly below Friday’s average of 4.84. Ten states and the District of Columbia have average prices of $5 or more. At an average of $6.25 per gallon, California still leads the nation in fuel cost.
AAA estimates that 42 million people will be driving this weekend. Even with high fuel prices, the agency notes that Americans may feel more in control of their arrival by driving rather than flying.
“Traveling by car provides a level of comfort and flexibility that people may be looking for given the recent challenges with flying,” said Twidale.
Courchesne admits she’s one of the lucky ones, and not just because Delta helped finance her dose of Jolly Rancher. After she was initially told her trip would be delayed about 28 hours, she said a Delta help desk employee was able to book a flight for Friday night to take her to Cleveland. She hopes to spend time with her grandmother and celebrate some family birthdays, but it won’t last long. She’s already thinking about her return flight to Washington on Monday, one that includes another stop at LaGuardia.
“I’m trying to do the fireworks in DC,” he said. “I hope it will be a little easier to come back, but I don’t really plan on it.”
Lori Aratani, Hannah Sampson, James Bikales, and Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.