Days of disruption to flights to and from the greater New York area has raised concerns about how well airlines are preparing for the Fourth of July holiday, a weekend expected to bring record numbers of air travelers.
More than four million Americans are expected to travel during this holiday period, he said AAA, car owners group, up about 11 percent from last year and about 6 percent from the record set in 2019. The busiest day in the period, with 52,564 trips, will be Thursday, Federal Aviation Administration He said.
But as travelers prepare for a busy weekend, airlines have sought to blame the Federal Aviation Administration, which operates the country’s air traffic control system, for at least some of the thousands of canceled flights and tens of thousands of flight delays nationwide this week.
Here’s what travelers need to know.
What is the situation at the airports in the Northeast?
Travel at New York airports, particularly Newark, has been disrupted since the weekend, with many travelers reporting extended flight delays and difficulty rebooking canceled flights. In some cases, passengers have reported falling asleep in airports and waiting in lines or on the phone for hours to reach customer service agents.
single traveler he said on Twitter A connecting flight, operated by United Airlines and departing Newark Airport over the weekend, was delayed about 15 hours after passengers were “unboarded” from the plane after midnight. The traveler’s family slept on cots in the arrivals hall.
Thunderstorms along the East Coast are building up in the “perfect place” to cut through the crowded New York and Florida markets, Chris Citrulla, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, He said in a video posted online.
“What’s happening is a domino effect of issues,” he said. “We have crews that can’t get where they need to be, we can’t get crews out of where they have to go and that starts to turn into a lot of problems at the airport itself.”
What are the most affected airlines? Who is to blame?
Of the roughly 4,500 flights canceled across the country on Monday and Tuesday, more than 30 percent were operated by United, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking company. Other airlines reporting significant cancellations include JetBlue Airways, Delta Air Lines affiliate Endeavor Air, and Republic Airways, which flies for Delta, United and American Airlines.
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, United, which maintains a hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, had canceled about 15 percent of flights nationwide that were planned for that day, according to FlightAware. Endeavor has canceled about 12 percent of its flights, while JetBlue has canceled about 9 percent and Republic about 8 percent.
United and JetBlue attributed the problems to the weather, but also to the Federal Aviation Administration
In a statement on Wednesday, United said the shortage of air traffic personnel over the weekend had contributed to a “difficult operating environment.” That censure echoes what United CEO Scott Kirby told employees in a memo earlier this week, saying the FAA frankly let us down this weekend. JetBlue said in a statement that it had difficulty keeping up with its flight schedule after air traffic control limited flights for all airlines to and from New York airports.
What’s really going on with FAA employees?
The FAA said it had no issues with air traffic control personnel along the East Coast on Monday or Tuesday. The agency said in a statement that it will “always cooperate with anyone who seriously wishes to join us on a problem.”
However, air traffic control has always been understaffed, and controllers at many facilities often work six-day weeks to cover these shortcomings.
in A report published last weekthe Department of Transportation found that most of the 26 air traffic control facilities it identified were understaffed by 15 percent or more, as of March 2022. One such facility, New York Terminal’s Radar Approach Control, which oversees some of the most The country’s complex and difficult airspace facilities use only 54 percent of the target number of controllers.
The report said the issue was years in the making, something Mr Kirby of United also noted on Monday.
“It is not the fault of the current FAA leadership that they are in this severely understaffed situation – it has been piling up long before they are in charge,” he said in his team memorandum.
The FAA had issues with staffing at the top, too. Its most recent permanent director resigned in March 2022 and the agency is currently led by its second interim director.
What recourse is there for travelers with delayed or canceled flights?
Most US airlines offer compensation to passengers when a flight delay or cancellation is due to a factor under the airline’s control, such as maintenance problems or understaffed flight crews. Bad weather and FAA personnel are not usually eligible.
But when the airline is wrong, major transportation companies It will rebook passengers on the same airline at no additional cost, and offer meals or meal vouchers when passengers are left waiting three hours or more.
To navigate potential disruptions, travelers should download and monitor airline apps, consider purchasing travel insurance — which typically covers flight delays — and switching flights to morning departures if possible.
In the event of mass delays or cancellations, there are likely to be extended suspension periods for customer service agents. Alternatively, travelers can call an airline’s overseas hotline, which will typically only see a fraction of the callers, said Scott Keyes, founder of Air Canada. Going.comIt is a travel website.
Could this weekend be repeated last summer?
“It’s going to be a hectic weekend and it’s going to be a weekend full of potential for turbulence,” said Mike Arnott, a spokesman for aviation analytics firm Cirium, noting that extreme heat in the south and smoky skies from the Canadian wildfires could also cause delays.
But Mr Keyes, of Going.com, said he was optimistic this summer would be better than last year, which he described as a “disaster”.
He is not alone in using this term. From June to August last year, more than 22 percent of all flights were delayed and about 2 percent were cancelled, Transportation data appears.
To help avoid redundancies and relieve pressure on air traffic control, the FAA has relaxed rules at some airports to encourage airlines to operate fewer flights with larger planes. It also opened 169 new roads to reduce congestion. Airlines hired more employees, opted to use larger planes and began watching closely for early signs of problems.
These steps may work. According to FlightAware, of the more than 100,000 flights scheduled for Memorial Day weekend this year, less than 1 percent have been canceled.
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