Airline travelers are finding themselves caught up in a mess once again as repeat cancellations and numerous delays continue to impact their plans. According to AP, the delays and cancellations have already begun just days before the anticipated peak of holiday travel for the July 4th weekend. Airlines are already struggling to keep up with the demand, and the surge of passengers expected this weekend is making hardly anyone optimistic.
Contributing to the chaos at airports are “huge crowds, bad weather, [and the] inability of some airline crews to reach their scheduling offices.” Passengers whose flights were canceled are furious at the airline on which they were meant to travel, with some claiming that they have not been treated satisfactorily since being displaced.
United Airlines appears to be having the most difficulty. One passenger, Tia Hudson, explained how she missed her flight home four days in a row, forcing her to miss her mother’s wedding. Hudson shared that her flight was canceled 5 times, she slept in the airport for 2 nights, booked 2 hotels, and spent $700 since the initial cancellation. Hudson is furious that the airline will not reimburse her for her troubles as they have cited weather-related issues as the problem. Meanwhile, the real problem is “a shortage of pilots and attendants,” said Hudson.
Another traveler, Rui Loureiro, who manages a pharmaceutical company and was planning to make his way from Boston to the West Coast for meetings, shared that because of the airline chaos, he needed to cancel critical meetings and will need to coordinate another time to meet.
Amid all of the airline chaos over the past few months, the airlines are blaming Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for failing to provide a suitable work force of federal air traffic controllers capable of meeting travel demands. Buttigieg is refusing to take the blame, however, and is arguing that the airlines are causing the mess by setting unreasonable standards of customer service and overbooking flights.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has admitted that they are short staffed on air traffic controllers. It is reported that the FAA made only “limited efforts” to staff the critical positions and they apparently have no plan on how to further address the problem.
Airlines expect to make more than 52,500 flights on Thursday alone this holiday weekend with a record-number of air travelers taking flights since the pandemic. While frustrated travelers have taken to social media to voice their concerns about the companies, airline companies are voicing their dissatisfaction with Buttigieg’s leadership and the FAA’s failure to correct issues critical to air traffic management.