As one of the busiest travel weekends of the year approaches, recent issues with the nation’s top airline carriers could make for a bumpy ride for millions of passengers.
So far Monday, more than 650 domestic flights have been canceled, according to Flight Aware.
It comes as AAA predicts 47.9 million Americans will hit the road or take to the skies over the Independence Day long holiday weekend from June 30 to July 4. It’s a 3.7% increase from last year, bringing travel volumes just shy of those seen in 2019.
“The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “People are ready for a break and despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much-needed vacation.”
Tens of thousands of passengers spent their weekend at the airport on standby waiting in long lines to hear whether or not they’d make it to their final destination.
Flight delays cost both passengers and airlines a lot of money. Delays cost an airline around $74 a minute, according to airlines.org. That’s about $4,500 an hour, which doesn’t include if the plane gets stuck on the tarmac for three or more hours.
Airlines that defy the tarmac delay rules can be fined up to $27,500 for each passenger on board the affected flight. So, if there’s an average of 200 people on a flight, that would cost the airline around $5.5 million.
When it comes to passengers, it costs about $47 an hour of their time. To put it in perspective, passengers lost nearly $28 billion in 2018, and that was before the pandemic and the recent travel chaos.
The Department of Transportation says that airlines are not required to compensate passengers for a delay or cancellation, but most will book passengers on their next available flight, let them reschedule, or issue a refund for the inconvenience.
It’s not only delays and cancellations that are upsetting. Passengers say the airlines are understaffed and customer service is being affected.
Airlines across the U.S. warned customers that service would be cut by 10% to 15% this summer. Airlines blamed COVID-19-related pilot shortages and lately pointed the finger at the Federal Aviation Administration, saying there aren’t enough employees to man the airports or the control towers.
The FAA released this statement defending itself: “People expect when they buy an airline ticket that they’ll get where they need to go safely, efficiently, reliably, and affordably. After receiving $54 billion in pandemic relief to help save the airlines from mass layoffs and bankruptcy, the American people deserve to have their expectations met.”
Meanwhile, some passengers say it took them too long to get home and the stress isn’t worth it.
“We’ll just deal with the gas prices and gas it up and just travel that way because I don’t think I’ll be catching another flight anytime soon,”
Even with the national average for gas prices topping $5 per gallon, AAA expects car travel volume will break the previous record, with 42 million people planning to drive over the holiday weekend.
Recent issues with air travel and concerns of cancelations and delays could be pushing people to hop in a vehicle, AAA said. The share of people traveling by air is forecast to be the lowest since 2011.
Independence Day will be the second busiest since 2000 as travel volumes continue to climb with no signs of slowing down, AAA said.
Travel experts said drivers should expect the longest travel delays heading into the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, June 30, and Friday, July 1, as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.
NewsNation affiliate WTNH contributed to this report.