Travelers were subjected to another wave of flight chaos in the US on Sunday, with about 1,000 flights cancelled. The toll came in on about 14,000 flights to or from the US that were canceled or delayed on Friday and Saturday.
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport was one of the hardest hit airports — the facility saw passengers stranded over the weekend when Delta canceled or changed dozens of scheduled flights.
Delta has previously blamed the delays and cancellations on increased sick leave due to Covid-19, inclement weather and supplier staffing. Last week, it said it plans to cancel 100 flights a day in July and August to avoid disruptions to summer travel.
“A variety of factors continue to affect our operations, including air traffic control issues, weather and unscheduled absences from some work groups,” a Delta spokesperson said Saturday.
The Atlanta-based airline has been one of the hardest hit during the recent spate of disruptions. It canceled 700 flights out of 2,400 flights canceled collectively over the three-day Memorial Day weekend, the highest number of any U.S. airlines that weekend.
Among the airports with the highest number of cancellations are the American Airlines hub Charlotte Douglas in North Carolina; LaGuardia and Newark Liberty in the New York City area; and Reagan Washington National in Washington DC.
Last week, transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg virtually met with several top airline CEOs to discuss the challenges facing the industry and pressure airline executives to improve service ahead of the July 4 holiday.
“Air travelers should be able to expect reliable service as demand returns to levels not seen since before the pandemic,” Buttigieg said. tweeted on friday† A day after the conference call, Buttigieg’s own internal flight was canceled and he drove from Washington to New York.
“That happens to a lot of people, and that’s exactly why we’re paying a lot of attention here about what can be done and how we can make sure the airlines deliver,” he told the Associated Press on Saturday.
Buttigieg said his department is considering sanctioning airlines if they fail to meet consumer protection standards. At the meeting, airline executives said they were taking steps to prevent a recurrence of the travel problems on Memorial Day.
“Now we’re going to see how those steps measure up,” Buttigieg said.
The pressure on airlines to improve performance is due to a strong recovery in demand for air travel. About 2.4 million people passed through TSA security checkpoints at U.S. airports on Friday, close to a pandemic-era record recorded over Thanksgiving.
While the weather is considered the main disruptive factor to summer travel, the airline industry is struggling to hire or re-engage pilots, cabin crew and airport staff during the pandemic.
Shortages at the Federal Aviation Administration — which falls under the purview of Buttigieg’s department — have contributed to flight delays, especially in Florida. The Transportation Security Administration has created a roving force of 1,000 screeners who can be sent to airports if checkpoint queues get too long.