July 4 Weekend Begins With Heavy Flight Delays

Topline

The busy July 4 holiday travel weekend started with thousands of flight delays on Friday as U.S. airlines continue to reel from staffing shortages, with several carriers and airports seeing more than a third of all flights pushed back amid a surge in travelers, and thunderstorms threatened more disruption Saturday on the East Coast.

Key Facts

There were 7,831 flights delayed Friday within the U.S. or originating or landing here, with crowded New York City airports the worst hit out of all major U.S. airports: 45% of flights were delayed at LaGuardia Airport, while at John F. Kennedy and Newark International, 44% of flights were delayed, according to data from FlightAware.

Other busy Northeast airports also ranked high for delays, with almost a quarter of flights delayed at Boston Logan and Philadelphia International.

JetBlue Airways and Allegiant Air were the hardest-hit U.S. carriers, delaying roughly 45% of their respective flights Friday—up from 35% of flights the airlines delayed from April 1 to June 30, 2022.

Other major airlines had high numbers of delays as well: Nearly 30% of American Airlines flights were delayed—up 7 percentage points from the average delays from April to end of June—while Delta pushed back about a quarter of its flights Friday, up 6 points from its average rate since April.

Total cancellations were relatively low Friday at 587.

Saturday morning as of 11:00 a.m. ET, 499 flights were canceled and 1,816 were delayed, and the Federal Aviation Administration said thunderstorms along the East Coast could cause flight delays, including in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Charlotte.

Big Number

2.49 million. That’s how many people the Transportation Security Administration said it screened at airport checkpoints Friday, up some 300,000 from the same day in 2019, and more than three times the number July 1, 2020.

Key Background

Airlines have been preparing for pre-pandemic levels of travelers during a busy July 4 travel weekend as they continue to grapple with staffing shortages sparked by the pandemic. Carriers shed thousands of workers through buyouts and early retirement amid a steep drop in travel due to the coronavirus. Summer travel—made worse by extreme weather—has been off to a rough start, with more than 7,000 flights canceled over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, while over 1,500 were canceled during the Juneteenth weekend. In preparation for July 4 travel, Delta told passengers the company would waive change fees and fair differences, while it and several other airlines including Spirit, Southwest and United have made schedule cuts to help reduce delays. Passengers have complained in record numbers to the federal government about the flight disruptions, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned airlines this week they must “be prepared to support the tickets” they’ve sold.

Further Reading

July 4 Travel Risks: The Airlines And Airports With The Highest Rates Of Disruptions–And The Least (Forbes)

A pilot shortage that’s been brewing for years adds to the summer travel chaos (NPR)

Weekend Flight Cancellations Top 1,500 As U.S. Travel Rebounds (Forbes)

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