Almost 12,000 flights cancelled, delayed at U.S. airport as of Friday

Travel horror stories are not limited to Canadian airports. Caryn Ceolin with the flight issues plaguing the U.S. this July 4th weekend.

By The Associated Press

The Fourth of July holiday weekend is jamming U.S. airports with their biggest crowds since the pandemic began in 2020.

About 2.49 million passengers went through security checkpoints at U.S. airports Friday, surpassing the previous pandemic-era record of 2.46 million reached earlier in the week, according to figures released Saturday by the Transportation Security Administration.

The escalating numbers show leisure travelers aren’t being deterred from flying by rising fares, the ongoing spread of COVID-19 or worries about recurring flight delays and cancellations.

Friday’s passenger volume marked a 13% increase from July 1 last year, which fell on the Thursday before Fourth of July. This year’s number of passengers going through U.S. airports also eclipsed the 2.35 million screened at security checkpoints on the Friday before the Fourth of July in 2019, but that was nearly a week ahead of Independence Day.

In a more telling sign of how close U.S. air travel is reverting back to pre-pandemic conditions, an average of 2.33 million passengers have passed through security checkpoints at domestic airports during the seven days ending July 1. That was close to the seven-day average of roughly 2.38 million passengers during the same 2019 period, according to the TSA.

RELATED: ‘Meaningful reductions’: Air Canada says it’s reducing summer flight schedule

But airlines have struggled to keep up with the surging demand amid staffing shortages and an assortment of other issues that have resulted in recurring waves of exasperating flight delays and cancellations that have been transforming some vacations into nightmarish ordeals.

Many airlines, including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue, have responded to the challenge by curtailing their summer schedules in an effort to reduce the inconveniences – and backlash – caused by flight delays and cancellations They are using larger planes on average to carry more passengers while they scramble to hire and train more pilots.

The headaches continued Friday, although they weren’t as bad as they have been at other times in recent months. There were more than 6,800 flight delays and another 587 flight cancellations affecting U.S. airports Friday, according to the tracking site FlightAware.

The trouble spilled into Saturday, too, with thunderstorms complicating things on the East Coast and parts of the Midwest. By late Saturday, nearly 4,000 flights had been delayed and more than 600 had been canceled at U.S. airports, according to FlightAware.

No relief in sight for air travel issues at Pearson

The delays and cancellations continued to plague travellers at Pearson Airport this Canada Day long weekend.

“On the way home, I was prepared for the worst, like three hour waits to get through customs,” Eleanor Mohammed, an urban planner from Prince Edward Island, tells CityNews. “But surprisingly enough, entering Pearson was no problem. Going through customs was less than an hour.”

“What was very interesting was the baggage area. I’ve never seen the baggage area with so many bags just sitting around.”

Rows upon rows of luggage sit unclaimed inside the terminal at Pearson Airport. CITYNEWS

But it wasn’t even the baggage that caused trouble for Mohammed, who was returning from a business trip to Rwanda and Poland. Before even returning home, Air Canada informed her that her connecting flight from Pearson to PEI was cancelled, like many others. She was then notified that her rebooked flight would also be delayed by two hours.

“I won’t believe I’m on a flight home to Charlottetown until I’m actually on a flight home to Charlottetown,” she said.

On social media, travellers everywhere have detailed long lines and delays, with one person describing the situation at the airport as “utter chaos.”

In a written statement to CityNews, the Greater Toronto Airport Authority says “for departing domestic passengers, we ask that they arrive at the airport at least two hours ahead of time and three hours for departing international travellers.”

The flight board at Pearson Airport shows a majority of flights delayed or cancelled. CITYNEWS

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