Lighted tunnel in the United Airlines terminal, O’Hare International Airport, Chicago Illinois.
Andrew Woodley | Universal Images Group via Getty Images
U.S. airline delays eased on Monday as weather improved, bringing welcome news for travelers and airlines as the July Fourth holiday weekend comes to an end.
As of midday Monday, 980 U.S. flights were delayed and 177 were canceled, down from nearly 4,700 delays and more than 300 cancellations a day earlier, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.
One in five U.S. airline flights, more than 19,000, were delayed Thursday through Sunday. The vast majority of flights were completed and 1,600 flights, 1.7%, were canceled, FlightAware data showed. Flight delays averaged 46 minutes.
The weekend was key for airlines as executives expected a surge of travelers after more than two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Passengers shelled out more for tickets as fares surpassed 2019 levels.
Industry staffing shortages, many the result of buyouts that airlines urged workers to take during the pandemic, have exacerbated routine challenges like bad weather. U.S. airline executives will begin detailing their summer performances and providing updated outlooks for the year in quarterly reports starting midmonth.
Airlines spent the last few weeks scrambling to avoid such issues. Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and others have trimmed their schedules to give themselves more room to recover when things go wrong, such as when thunderstorms hit major airline hubs over the weekend.
For example, Delta took the unusual step of allowing travelers to change their flights outside of the peak July 1-4 period if they can fly though July 8, without paying a difference in fare, in hopes customers could avoid some of the disruptions on the busiest days. Envoy Air, a regional carrier owned by American Airlines, offered pilots triple pay to pick up extra shifts in July, CNBC reported last month.
Europe travel has become chaotic with passengers at some of the biggest hubs facing long lines and baggage delays as the industry faces staffing issues and a surge in demand.
Scandinavian airline SAS on Monday said it would be forced to cancel half of its flights after pay talks with pilots’ union representatives broke down, setting off a strike. Meanwhile, the chief operating officer of low-cost airline easyJet resigned after recent waves of flight cancellations.