Travelers across the country faced the prospect of canceled or delayed flights on Saturday as airlines and airports grappled with a combination of high demand, bad weather and staffing shortages.
As of Saturday afternoon, more than 600 flights in the United States had been canceled and nearly 4,400 flights into, to or from the country had been delayed, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.
While the number of problem flights was higher than on a typical travel day, travel demand was also higher. According to the Transportation Security Administration, the number of travelers during the July 4 holiday weekend had reached pre-pandemic levels. Travel demand during the same holiday weekend last year rebounded substantially from pandemic lows but was still below this year’s levels.
FlightAware data showed that the three US airports most affected by cancellations and delays on Saturday were Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.
The number of canceled and delayed flights was well below the levels of the past Christmas and New Year holidays, when bad weather and Omicron-related staff shortages wreaked havoc on airline schedules.
Still, airlines are scrambling to meet demand this Fourth of July holiday, while battling pilot shortages, weather conditions and air traffic control delays.
“Delta teams continue to safely manage the aggravating factors of inclement weather and air traffic control delays, which impact available flight crew duty time,” a Delta Air Lines spokesperson said in a statement. an email. “Cancelling a flight is always our last resort, and we sincerely apologize to our customers for any disruption to their travel plans.”
Delta said it was offering customers the ability to reschedule flights from July 1 to July 4 with no fare change if they are traveling between the same origin and destination.
United Airlines also blamed weather and air traffic control programs for its delays.
Adding to the strain at American Airlines was a computer glitch in its pilot travel exchange system that the airline said allowed some travel exchanges that “should not have been allowed.” But American said it did not “anticipate any operational impact from this issue” adding that the “major drivers of delays/cancellations” on Saturday were “weather and traffic control issues.”
The Federal Aviation Administration said the main cause of flight delays and cancellations was weather conditions followed by travel demand. The agency added in a statement: “The FAA has acted on issues raised by airlines and is working with them to share information to keep aircraft moving safely when weather and other airspace events limit capacity. The agency also added alternate routes and placed more controllers in high-demand areas, and increased data sharing.”