February 23, 2024

Flight disruptions intensified on Tuesday amid a rough start to the summer due to severe storms and staffing issues.

About 3,000 U.S. flights were delayed and another 1,100 canceled as of noon Tuesday as thunderstorms continued over the weekend, derailing thousands of flights. More than 8,800 flights were delayed and 2,246 canceled in the U.S. on Monday.

The disruptions come ahead of the busy Fourth of July holiday travel season, when millions of people are expected to fly. The TSA said it is likely to screen more travelers than it did before the 2019 pandemic, increasing competition for spare seats.

The Biden administration has pressured airlines to improve operations after widespread flight disruptions last spring and summer prompted airlines to cut overly ambitious schedules. But over the weekend, the industry has struggled to recover from a series of thunderstorms that lasted for several days.

Thunderstorms are difficult for airlines because they form with less warning than other major weather hazards such as winter storms or hurricanes. Rolling delays could force workers to meet federally mandated workday limits and further exacerbate disruptions.

Some airline executives also blamed a shortage of air traffic controllers for some of the disruptions.

united airlines Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby told employees Monday that “frankly, the FAA let us down this weekend.” Arrivals at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, one of the airline’s largest hubs, were down 40% and departures were down 75%.

“This resulted in massive delays, cancellations, diversions, and misplacements of crew and aircraft,” Kirby wrote in a staff report seen by CNBC. Both were behind the eight ball, and that was further exacerbated by the FAA staffing shortage Sunday night.”

“We will always work with anyone who is serious about joining us in solving the problem,” an FAA spokesman said in a statement.

Staffing challenges are not new. The Covid-19 pandemic has derailed the hiring and training of new air traffic controllers, and the agency is now trying to catch up.

The Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General said in a statement Report A shortage of air traffic controller staff put air traffic operations at risk last week. In March, the FAA and some airlines agreed to reduce flights to help ease congestion at busy New York airports because of staffing issues.

But questions remain as airlines prepare crews and schedules for the busy summer season, driven by continued travel demand.

The disruptions also frustrated the crew, who were forced to wait to be reassigned.

The Cabin Attendants Association (CWA), which represents flight attendants at United and other companies, said in a memo to members on Monday that crews were waiting for more than three hours to be scheduled.

“The union leadership and on-board management absolutely recognize that steps must be taken to permanently address the adverse situation resulting from the irregular operation,” the union said.

In response to the union memo, United said it had “deployed all available resources to keep up with call volumes, including increased staffing of flight crew dispatch and mandatory overtime for dispatch teams.”

Headquartered in New York JetBlue Airways It has also faced significant flight delays over the past few days and acknowledged in a note to crew on Monday that it could improve how it handles flight disruptions, which was commented on by CNBC.

Don Uselmann, JetBlue’s vice president of in-flight experience, said the airline could more efficiently update crew reporting times so employees aren’t waiting for flights and reduce hotel-assigned wait times.

“The height of summer is officially upon us and all airlines will be tested by extreme weather events, air traffic control staffing constraints and resulting delays,” he said in the report. “This weekend’s (unscheduled action) will not be our It was the last time, but the combination of events put a lot of pressure on the operation and made it more challenging than most.”