This summer is already shaping up to be a difficult one for air travelers.
Southwest Airlines customers have struggled with thousands of delays and hundreds of canceled flights this month because of computer problems, staffing shortages and bad weather.
American Airlines is also grappling with a surge in delays, and it has trimmed its schedule through mid-July at least in part because it doesn’t have enough pilots, according to the pilots’ union.
Travelers are posting photos of long airport lines and describing painful flights.
“It was ridiculously crowded,” Tracey Milligan said of airports after a round trip from her New Jersey home to Miami this week.
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Milligan and her 6-year-old daughter endured hours-long delays on both legs of the trip. Before the flight to Florida, she said, JetBlue agents first told passengers there was a discrepancy with the plane’s weight, then they were missing three crew members because the airline was short-staffed, then there was a weather delay.
“I really wanted to start screaming and cursing everybody out, but that doesn’t get you anywhere, and security will come and remove you from the plane,” she said.
At least the passengers on Milligan’s flights kept their cool. Airlines have seen a surge in unruly passengers, and some experts predict it will get worse this summer as planes become even more crowded.
July 4th weekend travel
There have been 10 days in June when more than 2 million travelers went through U.S. airports, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration. Airlines say that domestic leisure travel is nearly back to 2019 levels, although the lack of business travelers means that overall, the number of passengers over the past week is still down about 20% compared with the same days in 2019.
The airlines were expecting a blockbuster July Fourth weekend, scheduling more than 100,000 U.S. flights between July 1 and July 5. That was nearly twice the 58,000 that they offered over the same days last year, according to data from aviation researcher Cirium. July 1 was first time the TSA screened more people than on the same day in 2019.
The weekend highlights the rapid turnaround boosting an industry that was fighting for survival last year. The recovery has been faster than many expected – including, apparently, the airlines themselves.
Pilot, staffing shortages
Since the start of the pandemic, U.S. airlines have received $54 billion in federal aid to help cover payroll expenses. In return, they were prohibited from furloughing or laying off workers. However, they were allowed to persuade tens of thousands of employees to take buyouts, early retirement or leaves of absence.
Now some are finding they don’t have enough people in key roles, including pilots.
This week, as Southwest officials braced for crowded flights over the holiday weekend they