Topline

Disruptions in U.S. air travel continued Sunday, with at least 726 flights canceled and 1,265 delayed according to FlightAware, as airlines face a labor shortage and struggle to keep up with the rebound in leisure travel after a pandemic slump.

Key Facts

The U.S. airline most affected by disruptions Sunday was Delta, with 209 canceled flights and 165 delays, amounting to about 11% of the carrier’s routes, followed by United, with 89 cancellations and 89 delays, affecting about 6% of flights.

Newark Liberty International Airport, which serves the New York area, was the hardest-hit American airport Sunday, with 48 flights—or 8% of journeys—scheduled to take off from the airport canceled, according to FlightAware.

On Saturday, 859 U.S.-based flights were canceled and 6,391 were delayed, according to FlightAware, bringing the total number of weekend cancellations to more than 1,500—and over 1,000 Friday flights were canceled.

Key Background

Airlines blamed the disruptions on a combination of staff shortages, an influx of summer travelers, heat waves and a series of storms that swept across the country this week. Friday marked the busiest day of air travel in the U.S. so far this year according to the Transportation Security Administration, which said it screened more than 2.4 million passengers at airport security checkpoints, the most since the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year. Travel likely surged this weekend because of Father’s Day on Sunday and the observance of Juneteenth as a federal holiday on Monday, giving many workers a three-day weekend.

Chief Critic

The U.S. could take action against airlines on behalf of customers if the flight disruptions continue, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told the Associated Press on Saturday. Buttigieg–who had a flight of his own canceled this weekend–said he is putting pressure on airlines to test their summer schedules to make sure they can follow through with the staff they have, and to hire any necessary additional workers before the Independence Day holiday weekend

Tangent

The U.S. isn’t the only country where air travel has been battered by mass disruptions. On Sunday, Chinese airports in Shanghai and Beijing were among the most affected by cancellations and delays, according to FlightAware, while 523 of airline China Eastern’s flights were canceled, amounting to 27% of the carrier’s flights. Air travel in Europe–where coronavirus travel restrictions have largely been lifted–has been marred by similar disruptions in recent weeks.

Further Reading

1,100 U.S. Flights Canceled Friday As Airlines Struggle With Travel Rebound (Forbes)

Airfare, Gas—And Even Cookies? Here Are The Biggest Price Hikes From Inflation (Forbes)

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