July 4 Weekend Less Chaotic for U.S. Carriers, but Still Challenging

U.S. air travel during the July 4 weekend had its challenges in terms of flight cancellations, but not nearly as many as on the two prior 2022 summer holiday weekends, according to FlightAware. 

There were about 1,435 canceled U.S. flights between Friday and Monday, with more than 18,200 flight delays, according to FlightAware. Total cancellations for Memorial Day weekend reached nearly 3,000, and for the Juneteenth holiday weekend totaled nearly 3,400. 

Saturday was the worst day for this past weekend’s cancellations, with 555 flights affected, or 2.5 percent of the schedule. 

U.S. Transportation Security Administration checkpoints for the four days combined recorded 8.8 million travelers, according to TSA, about the same number for the four days of Memorial Day weekend, but less than the 10.4 million passengers for June 17-20. The July 1 total of more than 2.49 million travelers was a single-day pandemic record, according to TSA.

In a June 24 letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, air trade group Airlines for America outlined steps its member carriers were taking to ensure reliability over the July 4 holiday—such as pulling down 15 percent of the original planned summer schedule, accelerating hiring and training, and giving more flexibility for itinerary changes and increasing investments in airline apps—but also noted challenges with air traffic control staffing shortages. 

Buttigieg addressed the air traffic control issue during a June 28 interview with NBC News. “We have had our challenges with air traffic control, but they do not explain the majority of the cancellations and the delays that we’ve seen out there,” he said, adding that where there is an issue, “we’re working that issue.” 

Buttigieg cited Jacksonville, Fla., as an example of a “perfect storm” of staffing concerns, space launches, military activity affecting the airspace and weather, “all hitting at once.”

“We took a collaborative approach, got with the airlines, worked on what was changing, especially in terms of more passengers than they expected coming back, and the need to allocate air traffic resources from [Federal Aviation Administration] to work towards solutions,” Buttigieg said.

Still, prior to the busy summer season, consumer airline complaints were up more than 300 percent in April 2022 from 2019 levels, according to DOT, with flight problems accounting for 31 percent of the complaints, second only to refund issues. 

The United States is not the only country with flight issues. Europe had more than double the cancellations of U.S. carriers between April and June, according to data from flight tracking company RadarBox.com, cited by a Bloomberg report. The region is dealing with peak demand, staffing shortages as well as labor strikes. 

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