Frustrated airline travelers contend with summer season of flight disruptions

Washington — Surging summer delays and a record number of travelers have made a habitually horrible peak airline travel season feel even worse.

While flight cancellations are down about 14% this summer compared to last, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, delays are up, and so are frustrations.

“It got cancelled,” one flyer told CBS News of their flight. “We don’t know why, and they aren’t going to fly us out until two days from now.” 

This week, the House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill that seeks to address airlines’ obligations to their customers at a time of growing disruption and dysfunction in the industry.

“We understand that airlines don’t control the weather, but they still need to meet certain basic standards of taking care of customers,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Reuters. 

Buttigieg is pursuing new rules that would require companies to compensate passengers for delays or cancellations that are the fault of the airline.

“One thing we’ve found is that even threats of regulation can motivate airlines to do the right thing,” Buttigieg said.

However, the airlines say the Federal Aviation Administration is also to blame, pointing to a shortage of staff and air traffic controllers.

The FAA contends that severe weather and flight volume were the biggest drivers in flight delays in 2023. The agency contends that it is working to hire 1,800 more air traffic controllers in the next year. It says it is also launching new, online videos to explain to passengers in real time what is happening in the skies.

But flight disruptions have not been the only challenge for travelers.

“We went directly through the state department, online — submitted our prior passports, which were only expired like a year,” passport applicant Pam Rogers said.  

A massive backlog of passport applications has potential international passengers waiting up to 13 weeks for documents which is causing missed trips, nonrefundable charges and a flood of constituents asking members of Congress for help.

“There’s only a few times in your life when you actually need your government, this is one of those moments,” Rogers said. 

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