July 4th travel chaos as thousands of airline passengers face cancellations

Hundreds of flights in the U.S. have been canceled Thursday, a worrying indication of the chaos summer travelers could endure as they prepare to fly during the busy July 4 weekend.

Airline passengers suffered through yet another day of delayed and canceled flights on Wednesday, with the East Coast continuing to be the hardest hit as storms pummel the region.

Around 1,200 U.S. flights were canceled on Wednesday, while nearly 7,000 were delayed, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.

By early Thursday, 344 flights within, into and out of the U.S. had been canceled and at least 500 more were delayed. Of the cancelled flights, 78 had been scheduled to fly in or out of New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport, 74 were at Denver airport, and 62 at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration expects Thursday to be the busiest travel day of the long weekend, with more than 52,500 total flights.

People wait in line at airport
People assemble and await the rescheduling of their flights at Newark International Airport on June 27, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey.
Kena Betancur/Getty Images

United Airlines, which uses Newark airport as its New York area hub, canceled 263 flights on Thursday, the most among U.S. airlines for a sixth straight day.

“We’re beginning to see improvement across our operation. We expect to cancel far fewer seats today compared to yesterday and our baggage backlog at Newark has dropped more than 30 percent since Tuesday, and off-duty flight attendants are calling in from across the country to staff open trips,” United said in a statement to Newsweek on Wednesday night.

“It’s all-hands-on-deck as our pilots get aircraft moving, contact center teams work overtime to take care of our customers, and our airport customer service staff works tirelessly to deliver bags and board flights. As our operation improves in the days ahead, we will be on track to restore our operation for the holiday weekend.”

Many passengers who were left stranded have taken to social media to express their anger, with some saying they were forced to sleep in airport terminals.

“My wife & 2 toddlers are sleeping in an airport terminal tonight because @united bumped the flight three times, put on standby for a midnight flight, then bumped again until tomorrow morning,” a Twitter user named John wrote.

“On hold w a rep since 3pm today. Nobody at counters. They don’t care.”

Some, including Margo Osborne, said they would never fly with certain airlines again.

“Will never fly @united again!” Osborne tweeted. “1000s stranded at Newark, after countless flights canceled. No one allowed to retrieve checked bag, even if u have medical equip packed inside. Customer service was worst I’ve seen.”

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has blamed a shortage of federal air traffic controllers for massive disruptions at its Newark hub last weekend.

Over 150,000 customers in the New York City area were impacted because of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) “staffing issues and their ability to manage traffic,” Kirby wrote in a memo to employees on Monday night, according to Fox Business. “The FAA frankly failed us this weekend.”

“We will always collaborate with anyone seriously willing to join us to solve a problem,” an FAA spokesperson told Newsweek.

The spokesperson said the FAA is “working closely with airlines to keep aircraft moving safely and efficiently over the Fourth of July travel period.”

They also pointed to weekly updates on the FAA’s website with preliminary data on the causes of delays.

“Current delay data shows the vast majority are due to weather and volume,” the spokesperson said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes the FAA, took to social media on Wednesday to reassure travelers that the FAA is working to “find solutions.”

“We are closely watching air travel this week. Weather has been rough, especially in the last four or five days, it’s caused a lot of cancellations and delays for many passengers around the country,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.

“We’ve known that summer is going to be a stress test on the system. The good news is we’ve seen a lot of progress this year through Memorial Day and also a major improvement to passenger rights compared to a year ago… FAA is continuing to work around the clock with airlines and within FAA’s own operations to find solutions, get creative, make sure the system is as resilient as possible.”

Last week, Buttigieg issued a new warning to airlines, telling them that flights could be disrupted because some planes lack updated equipment to prevent interference from new 5G wireless service. He said only planes retrofitted with the right equipment will be allowed to land when visibility is poor, such as during bad weather.

Update 6/29/23, 9:35 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from the FAA.

Article source: https://airlines.einnews.com/article/642176382/kseBvZcFeWvNZOrn?ref=rss&ecode=vaZAu9rk30b8KC5H

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