Fourth of July travelers across the US face thousands of flight delays, cancellations and high gas prices

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Isabella Courchesne was about to enjoy an Italian submarine at New York’s LaGuardia Airport when she received a warning familiar to many travelers on July 4: Her flight was delayed.

Courchesne attempted a weekend of barbecues and shopping with the family in Cleveland. She stayed patient after seeing about 15 flight cancellations on the airport departure board before her own flight with Delta Air Lines was canceled and rescheduled 24 hours later. A $15 meal voucher from the airline was nice, she said, but the 21-year-old still wondered if she’d be coming home — or if she’d be grabbing candy at LaGuardia.

“Nothing at LaGuardia Airport is $15, but it was better than nothing,” Courchesne, who works at a DC consulting firm on K Street, told The Washington Post. “I got some Jolly Ranchers. I thought $15 would have covered three family-size packs, and that’s exactly what happened.”

With tens of millions of Americans expected to fly or drive the 4th of July weekend, many are finding summer travel slowed by flight delays and cancellations and made more expensive by high fuel prices.

An estimated 47.9 million travelers in the United States between Friday and Monday, according to the AAA, represent a nearly 4 percent increase from a year earlier — nearing levels of summer travel not seen in the country since before the coronavirus pandemic Has. While the bulk of these travelers will be on the move, more than 3.5 million are expected to be on planes, that is if their flights are not delayed or cancelled.

More than 2,800 flights within, to or from the United States were delayed as of Saturday afternoon, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware. Southwest Airlines reported 477 delayed flights Saturday, accounting for 13 percent of its total trips, data shows. American Airlines reported 390 delayed flights Saturday, accounting for about 12 percent of its total trips. Delta has 296 delayed flights, according to FlightAware, which accounts for about 10 percent of the airline’s trips. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport leads among U.S. airports in Saturday’s delays, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

According to FlightAware, more than 600 flights were already canceled on Saturday. American, Delta and United Airlines are leading US airlines for Saturday cancellations.

Flight cancellations weigh on weary travelers as 4th of July approaches

The holiday breaks come at a time when the airline industry has pledged to put a renewed focus on reliability. While weather has always been a concern for airlines, staffing shortages during the pandemic have further hampered airlines’ ability to recover from delays. Several unions representing airline workers have spoken out and held demonstrations to draw attention to the strain on workers. On Thursday, more than 1,200 Delta pilots and employees demonstrated at multiple airports from New York to Los Angeles to demand higher wages.

Analysts at travel booking app Hopper are forecasting an average domestic fare of $437 per round-trip ticket, up 45 percent from 2019. Top U.S. destinations this weekend include Las Vegas, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles and Miami, says Hopper.

“The number of travelers we expect over Independence Day is a clear sign that summer travel is in full swing,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, in a press release. “People are ready for a break and even though things cost more, they’re finding ways to take a much-needed vacation.”

But problems with air travel continue even as US airlines receive billions in pandemic aid to keep workers on the job. When Americans were ready to fly again, the expectation was that airlines would be ready for them, especially during what some have dubbed the year of “vengeance travel.” More than 2.46 million people were screened by last Sunday Traffic Safety Authority Officers, the highest volume since February 11, 2020.

Welcome to Summer Travel. it’s hell

But tens of thousands of combined delays and cancellations marred celebrations of last month’s busy June and Father’s Day weekends. The airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have blamed each other for disrupting air travel.

Flight cancellations on busy Father’s Day travel weekend of June 16th

Debate over the efficiency of air travel intensified this week when Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called on Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation to “fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation of which they are aware.” that it cannot be fully occupied. ”

“The American people are fed up with airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute and delaying flights for hours,” Sanders said tweeted.

Buttigieg, who has urged the airline industry to “deliver” for the American people, said Saturday that his own connecting flight on Friday was cancelled. In a series of tweetsButtigieg said travelers “should be entitled to a cash refund if their flight is cancelled.”

“Initially, the airline offered 2,500 miles, which I estimate to be around $30. But I requested the refund for the canceled portion instead, and it turned out to be $112.07,” Buttigieg wrote. “Airlines offer miles as compensation for some travel issues, and it’s often negotiable. That is between you and the airline. But you are entitled to a cash refund for canceled flights – that’s a requirement we will continue to enforce.”

Travelers in Frankfurt, Germany, and London faced lengthy delays and baggage backlogs on July 1 as airlines struggled to cope with “high passenger numbers”. (Video: The Washington Post)

While airline passengers struggle with reliability, millions of road travelers still struggle with what to pay at the pump.

The national median price for a gallon of gasoline on Saturday is $4.82, according to the AAA, slightly below Friday’s average of $4.84. Ten states and the District of Columbia have average prices of $5 or more. California still leads the way in fuel costs, averaging $6.25 per gallon.

AAA estimates that 42 million people will be driving this weekend. Despite high fuel prices, the agency notes that Americans may be more in control of their arrival by driving rather than flying.

“Travelling by car offers a level of convenience and flexibility that people are looking for in the face of recent flying challenges,” said Twidale.

Courchesne admits she’s one of the lucky ones, and not just because Delta helped fund her Jolly Rancher fix. After initially being told her trip would be delayed by about 28 hours, she said a Delta help desk worker could book her on a late Friday night flight to take her to Cleveland. She’s looking forward to spending time with her grandmother and celebrating some family birthdays, but it won’t be long. She’s already thinking about her return flight to Washington on Monday – one that will include another stopover at LaGuardia.

“I’m trying to do the fireworks in DC,” she said. “I hope the return will be a little smoother, but I really don’t plan to.”

Lori Aratani, Hannah Sampson, and James Bikales contributed to this report.