The July 4 tourism surge puts airlines – and passengers – to the test

The 4th weekend of July will put airlines to the test after messy spring angry traveler and draw sharp criticism from Washington.

This year, the proportion of flights canceled and delayed in June is higher than before the pandemic due to bad weather and staff shortages. And airlines and federal officials have been trying to ease the frustration ahead of the busy holiday weekend.

This week, Delta has unusual step allows travelers to change flights for free, with no fare difference, if they can fly outside of the busy weekends 1-4 July, if they can go anytime through the 8th July. JetBlue Airways Suggest to attend bonus for flight attendants this spring to ensure a solid staffing. American Airlines regional airline Envoy is supplying pilots triple pay to pick up more trips in July.

Visitors at LaGuardia Airport in New York on June 30, 2022.

Leslie Josephs | CNBC

And service providers include Delta, Morale JetBlue, Southwest and United recently cut their schedule to give them more displacement when things don’t go as planned.

The moves to come when fares are available fly up and passenger numbers near pre-pandemic levels. About 2.6 million people could leave US airports every weekend, according to estimates from Hopper.

Tourists are mostly willing to pay higher fares after suffering with the pandemic for two years. That’s a boon for carriers that more than offset the increase in fuel costs. But flying turns out to be a headache for many.

Nearly 176,000 flights arrived at least 15 minutes late between June 1 and June 29. This represents more than 23% of scheduled flights, according to flight tracker FlightAware. And more than 20,000 – almost 3% – have been cancelled.

This is up from 20% of flights delayed and 2% of flights canceled in the same period in 2019.

By late Friday afternoon, 425 US flights had been canceled and more than 4,500 flights delayed. Delays include more than 600 American Airlines flights, or 18% of the main airline’s schedule for the day, and 450 Delta flights, 14% of the airline’s schedule, according to figures from FlightAware.

Consumer complaints are piling up. In April, according to the latest data available, the Department of Transportation received 3,105 passengers from US airlines, an increase of nearly 300% from April 2021 and nearly double the rate during the same period. last year.

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have sparred who to blame. Airlines have to account for disruptions due to bad weather, their staff shortages and staffing problems caused by government air traffic control.

With travelers’ demand for flights to Florida soaring, airlines have particularly complained about congestion stemming from a key state air traffic control center that monitors planes. flew over a large area in the Southeast.

To avoid such delays, Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle told CNBC this week that the airline is changing the way it schedules crews, limiting flying through that airspace to twice in a single mission. Delayed flights tend to spread through the rest of the network as crews arrive late for their onward flights.

The FAA, for its part, has urged airlines to switch to eliminate tens of thousands of workers through acquisition, despite receiving $54 billion in taxpayer pay aid during the pandemic as part of a bailout banning layoffs.

Space launches and military exercises are other obstacles.

Political pressure on airlines is growing. Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg has repeatedly urged the airlines to make sure they’re ready for the summer travel season and reduce disruption after a recent series of cancellations and delays, including an incident affecting the flight the secretary was planning to take. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) Also this week said airlines will be fined $55,000 per passenger for canceling a flight they know of. staff cannot.

On Thursday, FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen and other top officials held a call with airline executives to discuss plans for the weekend, including using the agency overtime to staff facilities, traffic and routing plans, according to a person familiar with the meeting. This call is in addition to regular planning meetings with the airlines.

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