Travelers are returning to airports in record pre-pandemic numbers this July 4th holiday weekend, but continue to face thousands of delayed and cancelled flights, data shows.
The Transportation Security Administration screened 2,490,490 passengers at airport security checkpoints on Friday — the highest number of passengers since Feb. 11, 2020, when the agency screened more than 2.5 million passengers, agency spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted on Saturday.
The same day, 464 U.S. domestic and international flights were cancelled and more than 6,600 were delayed, according to the flight tracker FlightAware, which notes that those made up 28.8% of scheduled flights overall.
More than 930 flights within, into, or out of the U.S. were delayed on Sunday morning, and more than 200 flights were cancelled, according to FlightAware. New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and Chicago O’Hare International Airport had the highest rates of delays and cancellations.
Fifty-three flights within, into, or out of the U.S. have already been cancelled for July 4 as of Sunday morning, according to FlightAware.
Sunday’s cancellations followed Saturday’s 5,893 delayed flights and 655 cancelled flights within, into or out of the U.S..
The July 4th weekend flight cancellations and delays also follow those of Juneteenth and Father’s Day weekend, which included the busiest air travel day of the year prior to July 1 and saw more than 3,300 flight cancellations from Friday – Monday, and Memorial Day weekend, when about 2,700 flights were cancelled.
The surge of cancellations follows staffing shortages, and a pilot shortage in particular, which has led some airlines to preemptively cut thousands of flights for the summer season.
Airline executives have blamed understaffing at the Federal Aviation Administration for flight cancellations and delays, but in an official statement the FAA disputed that claim.
In an interview last month with the AP, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he wanted to wait to see how air travel over the July Fourth weekend and the rest of the summer went before determining whether his department would take enforcement actions against airlines.
On Saturday, Buttigieg tweeted about how passengers could claim refunds for cancelled flights, noting in a thread that his own connecting flight was cancelled Friday night and that he claimed a $112 refund.
“Airlines offer miles as compensation for some travel issues, and you can often negotiate on this. That’s between you and the airline,” Buttiegieg tweeted. “But you are entitled to cash refunds for canceled flights — that’s a requirement that we will continue to enforce.”
FlightAware spokeswoman Kathleen Bangs previously told NBC News that she expects the wave of cancellations to stabilize by the fall, as airlines reduce their schedules and aim to hire more pilots and other airline workers.