Holidaze? Flights in Limbo; Passengers Grounded

Jim Luksic
By Jim Luksic
June 29, 2023US News
Holidaze? Flights in Limbo; Passengers Grounded
Travelers enter a new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening area during the opening of the Terminal 1 expansion at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles on June 4, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

As the July 4 holiday approaches, would-be travelers may need to avert their gaze from the clouds to the roads or else postpone plans altogether.

Frustration with airlines and inclement weather has been sky-high since last weekend, as thousands of flights have been delayed and postponed, according to the aircraft-tracking service FlightAware.

Storms in the Northeast were chiefly to blame for the majority of setbacks nationwide. For the sixth consecutive day, United Airlines was the carrier at the forefront of air-travel stagnancy and obstacles.

Weather conditions were gradually clearing Thursday, in time for the pre-holiday weekend, according to the Weather Channel’s website. Aside from lingering thunderstorms in portions of the Midwest and rain in the Northeast, no “severe” precipitation is forecast for Friday.

The Fourth of July falls on Tuesday this year.

The number of Thursday overall delays in the United States was tracked at 18,650 and rising, based on the website’s latest tracking numbers, while total cancellations stood at more than 1,100 as of noon.

Meanwhile, delays into and out of the country were at the 2,041 mark, FlightAware estimated, while cancellations for the same type of flights had reached at least 450.

More than 50,000 flights were booked Thursday—ostensibly the busiest of the week—the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said. Among the American-based airlines in the industry, United was impacted the most, with a substantial 13 percent of their potential flights postponed and 11 percent delayed.

According to Kathleen Bangs, FlightAware’s spokesperson based in Minnesota: “In terms of this year, this week has been tough, the first snag (within the airline industry). But overall things have improved significantly,” adding that the recent Memorial Day weekend saw “good” numbers.

As for whether United is short-staffed, Bangs said: “Nobody knows for sure. However, many carriers lost senior employees during the COVID pandemic,” referring to 2020–21.

NTD also reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration, but an automated email reply simply stated: “This is the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Support Center.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg hadn’t responded to NTD as of Thursday afternoon.

When it comes to destination cities, as of Thursday afternoon, the U.S.-based airports and hubs with the most cancellations and backlogs were Denver International, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and Chicago O’Hare International. They were experiencing dozens of problems and disruptions accounting for upward of 8 percent of their would-be flights, according to FlightAware’s website.

Meanwhile, at airports of origin where flights were expected to take off, Newark Liberty International was enduring 7 percent of its fleet being grounded Thursday morning.

In addition to a panoply of flight delays and postponements causing chaos and consternation inside airports nationwide, at least one airline dealt with a more serious problem Wednesday: A Delta Boeing 717 had broken nose gear and required an emergency landing in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Twitter account RawsAlerts posted that Charlotte Douglas International “closed the runway” and there were “no injuries,” with accompanying video footage of the incident.

On the same app, a United patron wrote, “Spent about eight hours in line rebooking… Forget about getting through to customer service,” along with a photo of stranded passengers at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

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