TRAVEL mayhem has stretched to an eighth consecutive day with thousands of flights delayed and over 700 cancelations in the US, sparking Fourth of July chaos fears.
Flight delays and staffing issues have continued to disrupt travelers, creating a chaotic scene at airports nationwide.Travel mayhem has stretched to an eighth consecutive day with thousands of flights delayed and over 700 cancelations in the USCredit: AFP Delta canceled at least 200 flights over the Juneteenth holidayCredit: Reuters United grounded at least 75 flights on ThursdayCredit: AP American Airlines halted 180 flights and will end service at four city airports in the nationCredit: AFP
As of 5pm Thursday, over 3,800 flights were delayed within, into, or out of the US, according to FlightAware.
An additional 776 flights were canceled across the nation.
Over the Juneteenth holiday weekend, at least 14,000 domestic flights were canceled or delayed, with more than 900 flights grounded on Sunday alone.
Delta was among the airlines with the most cancellations, with at least 200 flights halted.
Foot traffic at airlines has risen to pre-pandemic days as US airports have seen an average of 2.2million passengers a day since the start of June.
Overall, about three percent of scheduled flights have been canceled this month, up one percent from last year - and the total number of cancelations rose 16 percent to 13,581 flights from one year ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.AIRLINE WOES
The travel nightmare comes amid a pilot and staffing shortage.
Airline workers have stressed that low wages and poor conditions are to blame. In addition, pilots say that near-daily flight reassignments have added stress to their jobs.
Early in the pandemic, airlines urged many senior pilots, flight attendants and other employees to take buyouts or early retirements, anticipating the industry would shrink and take some time to crawl back.Millions of Americans are expected to travel this Fourth of JulyCredit: AP Airline experts say the delays and cancelations are just the beginningCredit: AP Airlines are dealing with a pilot and staff shortageCredit: EPA
However, air travel has boomed back faster than airlines predicted, and now they're scrambling to hire new crew members.
But, back-ups in training and recertification are keeping some new staff from spreading their wings, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American pilots, told Axios.
Now airline experts say continuing delays and cancellations are just the tip of the iceberg.
"We may not have seen the worst of this," Kit Darby, founder of Kit Darby Aviation Consulting, told CBS.
Darby said airline operations are known to be fragile and vulnerable as even a spot of bad weather could delay or cancel a flight.
"Right now, when you have normal things like airplane maintenance or weather, delays are much more severely felt. There are no reserved extra pilots, planes, flight attendants — and the chain is only good as the weakest link," Darby said.
"The biggest issue is they don't have the capacity. They have not been able to bring back full capacity in terms of pilots, TSA checkpoints, vendors at the airport, baggage handlers, ground staff, or flight attendants," New York Times travel editor Amy Virshup told CBS.
"So they're really struggling to ramp up their hiring again in the face of demand which is growing faster than expected."
There's no easy fix to the problem as finding and training a pilot is ideal a four-year process.
Even then, pilots need to reach a maximum number of hours before they're even qualified to work, which can take several years to build experience.
Airlines such as Alaska and United have opened flight training schools earlier this year, offering financial aid to help defray the $70,000 cost of becoming a pilot.A GRIM FOURTH OF JULY AHEAD
"Toward the end of the month, and as we transition into the next month, is when it's the worst. The 4th of July is not looking good," Darby told CBS.
The Biden Administration has considered taking action against US airlines for flight disruptions following a virtual meeting with airline executives earlier this month.