Travel chaos continued on Monday with nearly 150 flights canceled and over 600 delayed before 9 a.m., on the busiest Independence Day weekend since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
United Airlines canceled 34 flights and delayed 64 so far this morning; American Airlines canceled 19 and delayed 63; and Delta canceled 15 and delayed 75.
More than 1,400 flights have been canceled during the holiday weekend across the US, according to FlightAware, which reported at least 654 flights canceled on Saturday, and 312 canceled Sunday. Delays over the weekend have reached well over 10,000.
Around 48 million people are expected to travel this weekend with AAA estimating 3.5 million would take to the air. But the actual number of passengers flying may be dramatically higher as the Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 2.1 million travelers at airports on Sunday alone.
Adding to the mayhem was a computer glitch in American Airlines’ staffing systems that allowed pilots to take time off they shouldn’t have been offered, leaving 12,000 planes without anyone to fly them between July 3 and the end of the month.
The ongoing fallout of staffing shortages following the mass retirement of thousands of pilots during the pandemic has also reared its head over the packed holiday weekend, with airlines scrambling to staff flights while being accused of scheduling more than they can accommodate.
Additionally, a series of severe thunderstorms rocked the east coast and Midwest on Saturday, compounding the chaos in the skies and on the tarmac.
Travel chaos showed no signs of slowing on Monday with nearly 150 flights canceled and over 600 delayed before 9 a.m. during the busiest Independence Day weekend since the start of the pandemic
Travelers in Miami wait to board their flight to Missouri on July 2. More than 1,400 flights have been canceled during the holiday weekend across the U.S., according to FlightAware, which reported at least 654 flights canceled on Saturday, and 312 canceled Sunday
United Airlines canceled 34 flights and delayed 64 so far this morning, American Airlines has canceled 19 and delayed 63, and Delta has canceled 15 and delayed 75
An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed their staffing computer glitch, but told DailyMail.com in a statement that the airline does not expect any ‘operational impact’ because of it.
In fact, they said most of the affected flights have now been staffed — but didn’t give an exact number as to how many remain pilot-less.
In a leaked American Pilots Association message to Los Angeles-based crew members, union officials told pilots that the airline was not allowed to simply add them back to flights without their input.
The union is working with American Airlines to give pilots extra compensation to crew those flights, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In 2017, American experienced a similar glitch in their system, resulting in pilots being offered 150% pay in exchange for staffing the abandoned flights.
The latest mishap adds to tensions between pilots and airlines, as pilots have been picketing for higher pay in the wake of the post-pandemic staffing shortage.
Just this week it was announced that American Airlines pilots were getting a 17% raise in pay.
On Sunday alone, the Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 2.1 million travelers at airports across the US
Adding to the mayhem was a computer glitch in American Airlines’ staffing systems that left 12,000 flights without pilots beginning July 3
Travelers move through a packed terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport on July 2
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who previously called on airlines to get in shape before the weekend, appeared to give up on getting things under control Saturday as he told Americans to follow his lead and claim compensation over the canceled flights.
‘Airlines offer miles as compensation for some travel issues, and you can often negotiate on this,’ tweeted Buttigieg, who said he got back $112.07 over his cancelled flight on Friday after he was initially offered about $30 back.
‘Sometimes an airline will offer you points or miles as compensation, but you are entitled to a cash refund when your flight is canceled.’
Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday.
Many are calling on Buttigieg to act rather than give out advice on how to get compensation like he did.
One Twitter user, with the handle, @The Dude, wrote: ‘Hey Pete … maybe, as Secretary of Transportation, you should be meeting with FAA, major airlines and other key folk involved – slamming your fist on the table and demanding they work out these issues and a plan to address the problems … not update us on frequent flyer miles.’
Another Twitter user with the handle, @Limstone Caulk, added: ‘How about, people just want to go somewhere when they actually paid to go?’
Travelers check the departures board at Miami International Airport on Saturday. Over a thousand flights have been canceled this weekend and more than 10,000 delayed
Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday
Sen. Bernie Sanders demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancelation they know can’t be fully staffed
While Buttigieg was only able to finagle $112 out of his flight cancelation, eight passengers on a Delta airlines flight to Minneapolis last week reportedly walked away with $10,000 each in return for giving up their seats on the overbooked flight.
Inc. magazine Tech columnist Jason Aten wrote how he and his family were sitting onboard the aircraft before takeoff, when flight crew announced the offer over the intercom.
‘If you have Apple Pay, you’ll even have the money right now,’ he said a flight attendant told passengers.
Another passenger on the same flight, Todd McCrumb, told KTVB that staff initially offered passengers $5,000, before bumping it up to $10,000.
Speaking to The New York Post, a spokesperson for Delta Airlines declined to comment on the amount passengers were offered on that flight, but confirmed that flight crews were authorized to offer cash to passengers.
‘Compensation is one of the many ways that our employees are empowered to manage oversold flights to take care of customers, but also make sure that the aircraft go out on time,’ said spokesperson, Anthony Black.
In April 2017, after a passenger was injured while being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight, Delta authorized employees to offer up to $9,950 to passengers for giving up overbooked seats, according to The Post.
Sen. Bernie Sanders demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancelation they know can’t be fully staffed. He also demanded that the DOT impose a $15,000 fine for every passenger facing extended delays on domestic and international flights.
‘The American people are sick of airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute and delaying flights for hours on end,’ he said.
‘Given all of the generous taxpayer support that has been provided to the airline industry, all of us have a responsibility to make sure that passengers and crew members are treated with respect, not contempt.’
Sens. Edward Markey, of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, asked 10 airline CEOs this week to ‘take immediate action’ to reduce travel disruptions. The senators demanded information about how each airline decides which flights to cancel and the number of consumer refunds requested and granted.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancelation they know can’t be fully staffed while Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (right) said airlines have until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday.
As Delta Air Lines led cancelations on Friday, CEO Ed Bastian wrote an apology letter to customers and vowed to make major changes, including adding extra boarding times, improving crew scheduling and bringing on more workers to aid busy travel periods.
‘We’ve spent years establishing Delta as the industry leader in reliability, and though the majority of our flights continue to operate on time, this level of disruption and uncertainty is unacceptable,’ Bastian wrote in a letter to frequent flier clients.
‘Things won’t change overnight, but we’re on a path towards a steady recovery.’
Since the start of the summer travel season, Delta has canceled more than 3,600 flights and delayed 20% of its total flights since the Memorial Day weekend.
Flight cancelation Q&A: Why are airlines slashing so many flights and what is being done to fix it?
Why are there so many delays and attempts by the airlines to cancel and delay flights?
The airlines are increasingly trying to blame delays on understaffing at the Federal Aviation Administration, which manages the nation’s airspace and hires air-traffic controllers.
The FAA has admitted it’s understaffed, especially in an important air control center in Florida, which has meant a decrease in the quality of service and an increase in delays and cancelations.
Problems were popping up well before the weekend, with some disruptions caused by thunderstorms that slowed air traffic.
Helane Becker, an airline analyst for Cowen, an investment firm, said there are many reasons for the disruptions, including weather, FAA ground stops that last too long and flight crews hitting their legal limit of working hours in a day.
Why are airlines cutting flights?
Many of them, including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue, have trimmed summer schedules to reduce stress on their operations. They are using larger planes, on average, to carry more passengers with the same number of pilots. Those steps haven’t been enough so far this summer.
Are the pilots striking?
The pilots are not striking. Federal law creates a long and difficult process before airline workers can legally go on strike. The pilots are still walking picket lines while remaining on the job at various airports.
The pilots plan to picket, not strike, on the days they’re not scheduled to work in order to bring attention to the issues.
Why are pilots attempting to picket?
Pilots have complained that thinly staffed airlines are asking them to work too many flights, with more pilots reporting fatigue.
The Air Line Pilots Association claimed earlier this week its nearly 14,000 members are working longer hours even as airlines cancel thousands of trips.
What have officials proposed to potentially fix this or punish the airlines?
The Biden administration is blaming the airlines, saying it received billions in stimulus money to keep them afloat during the pandemic and should stick to the schedule it publishes.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to Buttigieg demanding he fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed.
Congressional leaders are demanding the airlines provide answers as to why there continues to be disruptions, especially since the industry received $50 billion in relief during the pandemic in an effort to keep business afloat.