Travel chaos continues for a SEVENTH day as more than 360 flights are canceled across the US

The ongoing summer travel chaos seems to only be getting worse, with airlines reporting over 400 cancelations across the United States by Wednesday morning as pilots continue to complain of fatigue as they have to make up for staff shortages amid increasing demand.

As of 11am EST, there were 476 flights within, coming into or leaving the United States that were canceled, and 986 flights across the country were delayed.

That is more than double the number of cancelations reported at the same time the day before, when only 219 cancelations were reported, while the number of delays is slightly less than the 1,005 reported at the same time on Tuesday.

Those traveling on American Airlines have fared the worst on Wednesday, with the airline canceling 2 percent of its total scheduled flights and delaying 6 percent, according to Flight Aware. United Airlines also canceled 1 percent of its scheduled flights, and delayed 2 percent.

Major cities have faced the brunt of the travel chaos, with New York City-area airport Newark Liberty International Airport seeing 11 percent of its flights canceled and 3 percent delayed, while nearby LaGuardia Airport saw 8 percent of its flights canceled on Tuesday morning and 3 percent delayed.

John F. Kennedy International Airport also reported 3 percent of its fleet was canceled and 5 percent was delayed, as thunderstorms gripped New York City.

And in the Washington D.C. area, Ronald Reagan National Airport saw 3 percent of its flights canceled and 4 percent delayed, while Dulles International Airport reported 4 percent of its flights were canceled.

Those statistics show that the weekend’s summer travel chaos won’t let up – and actually appears to be getting worse. 

After seemingly getting better on Monday and Tuesday, travel chaos seemed to get worse on Wednesday, when there were 476 flights across the United States already canceled by 11.20am

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Lines were long to get through airport security were long at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday for a seventh straight day of travel chaos

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Lines were long to get through airport security were long at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday for a seventh straight day of travel chaos

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: The demand for travel has skyrocketed since a lull during the coronavirus pandemic

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: The demand for travel has skyrocketed since a lull during the coronavirus pandemic

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Air carriers blame a shortage of pilots on the mass cancelations and delays, but pilots say the airlines are scheduling more flights than they have the capacity for

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Air carriers blame a shortage of pilots on the mass cancelations and delays, but pilots say the airlines are scheduling more flights than they have the capacity for

Over the holiday weekend, a whopping 14,000 flights were canceled across the United States, leaving passengers stranded at airports overnight. 

On Thursday, more than 1,700 flights were canceled, and on Friday, 1,100 flights were canceled as a pandemic-high number of travelers passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.

By Saturday, CNBC reports, more than 6,300 flights were delayed into or leaving the United States and 859 flights were canceled – and more than 900 flights were cancelled on Sunday.

Monday also saw more than 3,600 flights were delayed within, or coming into or exiting the United States, with over 380 canceled. 

In total, about 3 percent of scheduled flights have been canceled this month, up 1 percent from the year before – and the total number of cancelations rose 16 percent to 13,581 flights from one year ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Air carriers are now blaming the backlog in flights on rising demand following a lull during the coronavirus pandemic as staffing remains strained due to mass COVID-19 fueled layoffs.

The industry anticipates a shortage of 12,000 pilots this year as pilots must have 1,500 qualifying flight hours before they can actually take over a plane, according to Forbes

There is also a shortage of flight schools to accommodate the training process, and pilot salaries and benefits have decreased in recent years. 

Additionally, the Federal Air Administration has a mandatory retirement age of 65 for pilots, which also speeds up the retirement date for some.

But pilots are now fighting back, claiming the airlines are overscheduling them in an effort to meet the demand, while failing to hire any new staff – and Capt. Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, is now calling for the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the airlines’ operations.

In an interview with CNBC's Squawk Box on Wednesday, Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, called for the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the airlines' operations

In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Wednesday, Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, called for the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the airlines’ operations

He said passengers should be concerned by the pilot staff shortage, because those who remain on the staff are being overworked and fatigued

He said passengers should be concerned by the pilot staff shortage, because those who remain on the staff are being overworked and fatigued

In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Wednesday, Tajer said passengers should be concerned by the pilot staff shortage because it is causing those pilots who are on staff to become overworked.

‘They need to be concerned because I’m on TV saying “There’s a problem here,”‘ he said, explaining that airlines are ‘flying more planes than they can actually fly,’ and saying that pilot fatigue has reached an ‘inhumane level.’

‘This is not a safety culture,’ Tajer said, as he called for the FAA to monitor airlines’ operations.

‘The FAA should come in and look at this,’ he said, claiming that the airlines ‘are ultimately letting down our passengers.’

He blamed the ongoing travel chaos on a ‘failure to plan by management,’ noting that U.S.-based airlines should have been prepared for a surge in demand after Congress approved $54 billion in three rounds of pandemic relief to cover payroll costs for 18 months. 

 ‘This is a failure of management to utilize the money that was given to them by the American taxpayer to have us ready for the recovery, and we’re not,’ Tajer said. ‘They just did not plan.

‘What they did is they looked at the demand and they said “This is where the money is,” but they never actually fulfilled that, and they put it on our plate.’

Tajer also noted that fatigue-calls have increased 10-fold since pandemic-era travel restrictions ended and more Americans sought to fly, claiming: ‘They’re trying to fly airplanes without the pilots available.  

‘That’s just not doing business, that’s just selling something you don’t have.’

On Tuesday, nearly 1,300 Southwest Airline pilots gathered outside the Dallas Love Field Airport to protest the ongoing staff shortages

On Tuesday, nearly 1,300 Southwest Airline pilots gathered outside the Dallas Love Field Airport to protest the ongoing staff shortages

Capt. Casey Murray said pilots are feeling overworked to meet the never-ending travel demand amid the staff shortages, and he hoped the protest would encourage the airline to renegotiate pilots' contracts

Capt. Casey Murray said pilots are feeling overworked to meet the never-ending travel demand amid the staff shortages, and he hoped the protest would encourage the airline to renegotiate pilots’ contracts

Capt. Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Pilots Association, said the pilots stand in solidarity with the passengers who are facing massive travel delays

Capt. Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Pilots Association, said the pilots stand in solidarity with the passengers who are facing massive travel delays

Trajer’s comments come just one day after nearly 1,300 Southwest Airline pilots gathered outside the Dallas Love Field Airport to protest the ongoing staff shortages.

The Southwest Pilots Association called for better treatment of its pilots at the protest, which it called ‘the largest display of unity in Southwest Airlines history.’

It described the demonstration in Dallas, Texas an ‘informational picket’ in an effort to raise awareness of pilot fatigue, stress caused by an ongoing pilot shortage – which it says is to blame for massive delays and cancelations.

‘Our pilots have had to address the fatigue issue with management publicly, which is something that we never want to do, but you know, have been tired and have been trying to do everything they can,’ Capt. Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Pilots Association told NBC DFW.

He said the main problem is issues with scheduling pilots on connecting flights.

‘We’ve seen our company not really address a lot of operational problems,’ Murray said. ‘And this has been going on for several years.

‘While we do need to hire pilots, the main problem really is the efficiency in the scheduling efficiencies we’ve seen.’

In April, Southwest Airlines announced that it was cutting nearly 20,000 flights from its summer schedule, including about a quarter of flights from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Destin-Fort Walton Beach in Florida. 

The airline had 2,200 fewer employees than there were three years earlier – even though the company had hired an additional 5,000 workers in 2021, according to the Dallas Morning News.

And of those who were working, a large number of pilots are canceling their shifts due to fatigue, and blaming it on erratic schedules from delays and cancelations.

At the protest on Tuesday, Murray said he wants passengers to know that the pilots stand with them during this travel frenzy following the COVID pandemic.

‘We’re tired of saying “I’m sorry” at every flight,’ he said at the demonstration, according to KDFW.

But, he said, pilots are feeling overworked to meet the never-ending travel demand amid the staff shortages.

‘Our pilots have lost over the last year almost 20,000 days off, which is over 50 years that our pilots have lost – involuntarily being made to fly on off days,’ he told NBC DFW. ‘And again, fatigue is cumulative.

‘So it adds up and the more flying that there is that has to be covered.’

Murray said he hopes the large picket will get the company’s attention to renegotiate pilot’s contracts, and Southwest Airlines said in a statement that contract negotiations are ongoing.

The protest on Tuesday followed a similar one last week by the Delta Air Lines Pilot Association, in which they picketed at Delta’s annual shareholders meeting in New York City.

In a tweet, the union said it is demanding the airline match the number of flights ‘with current pilot staffing to ensure safe, reliable service for our customers.’

Last week, the Delta Air Lines Pilot Association picketed at Delta's annual shareholders meeting in New York City

Last week, the Delta Air Lines Pilot Association picketed at Delta’s annual shareholders meeting in New York City

In a tweet, the union said it is demanding the airline match the number of flights 'with current pilot staffing to ensure safe, reliable service for our customers'

In a tweet, the union said it is demanding the airline match the number of flights ‘with current pilot staffing to ensure safe, reliable service for our customers’

Some airlines have now announced that they are, in fact, cutting down on their service.

On Monday, American Airlines announced the company ‘made the difficult decision’ to drop service to airports in Toledo, Ohio; Ithaca, New York and Islip, New York beginning September 7 citing a pilot shortage.

The airline is now allegedly contacting customers scheduled to fly after the route termination date in an effort to ‘offer alternate arrangements.’

A spokesperson for the company also said it is ‘extremely grateful for the care and service our team members provided’ at the impacted airports and claims to be ‘working closely with them during this time.’

Last week, Delta Airlines also announced it was cutting service by about 100 flights per day from July 1 to August 7 in an effort to combat ongoing staffing shortages.

CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo announcing the cancelations that the air carrier has been actively hiring new workers over the past year after more than 17,000 employees left the company in July 2020, at the height of the pandemic.

As of early June, Delta Airlines reported it had hired more than 15,000 workers in the last year but stated it was still not enough to meet the soaring travel demand.

In a statement about the delays and cancellations, Delta said: ‘All of our people, including our pilots, are working hard to restore our airline and deliver for our customers as we emerge from the pandemic. We are grateful and proud of their efforts.

‘We continuously evaluate our staffing models and plan ahead so that we can recover quickly when unforeseen circumstances arise, and the resilience of the Delta people is unmatched in that regard,’ it said in the statement to NBC News.

And International Air Transport Association Director General Willie Walsh told CNBC that the travel chaos is ‘isolated,’ noting that not every airport is experiencing problems.

Still, he admitted, the airline industry is ‘not out of the woods.’

‘Yes, we want to do better, and yes we will do better,’ Walsh said. ‘But I would strongly urge consumers looking at the opportunity to fly to reflect on the fact that this isn’t happening everywhere.

‘And in the vast, vast majority of cases, flights are operating on schedule, without disruption, without any problems at the airport, and I think you can look forward to enjoying the experience of flying again.’

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Passengers climbed escalators to get to their flights on Wednesday as hundreds were canceled

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Passengers climbed escalators to get to their flights on Wednesday as hundreds were canceled

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Airports around the country have reported long delays and cancelations since last Thursday

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Airports around the country have reported long delays and cancelations since last Thursday

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Passengers are pictured here waiting to check their bags on Spirit Airlines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Passengers are pictured here waiting to check their bags on Spirit Airlines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: The Transportation Security Administration reported that over 13.9 million people have passed through its checkpoints since Thursday

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: The Transportation Security Administration reported that over 13.9 million people have passed through its checkpoints since Thursday

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Some passengers over the weekend have had to spend the night at the airport

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Some passengers over the weekend have had to spend the night at the airport

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration reported that over 13.9 million people have passed through its checkpoints since Thursday – up 16.8 percent from the same time last year, and a whopping 321 percent from 2020.

Many of these passengers have had to stay overnight at airports over the weekend as their flights continued to be canceled or delayed.

One Emergency Room nurse from Pittsburgh also said her trip home from Italy lasted about 60 hours, noting to WTAE: ‘There were no delays until I got into the States.’

Luray Hixson said she got stuck for nearly two days at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, explaining: ‘The flight itself was changed nine times, with the gates. 

‘There were other Pittsburghers around who were following,’ she said, and ‘we were moved from terminal to terminal, which these terminals were nowhere near each other; we had to take shuttles to get to these other places to get your flight.’

After her longest delay, which was a whopping 12 hours long, Hixson said her flight was ultimately canceled.

Fortunately, she said, her mother was willing to pick her up from the airport and drive her six hours to get home. 

Now, she says, she’s not sure if she will fly again in the near future, saying: ‘This is becoming the norm.’

And on Wednesday, a Twitter user posted a photo of a long line at Tampa International Airport saying: ‘They’re calling people out of line for flights.’

He added that he’s ‘pretty sure half the airport is in this line.’

A Twitter user posted on Wednesday that there were long lines at Tampa International Airport in Florida, claiming: 'They're calling people out of line for flights'

A Twitter user posted on Wednesday that there were long lines at Tampa International Airport in Florida, claiming: ‘They’re calling people out of line for flights’

The chaos has even affected Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg who was forced to drive from Washington D.C. to New York over the weekend – just one day after he told airline executives to clean up their act to avoid another flying catastrophe for the July 4 holiday.

The father-of-two has given airline executives a short two-week period to clean up the mess and guarantee travelers can enjoy a patriotic weekend and summer without the airport stress. 

He’s asked them to ‘stress-test’ operations ahead of the next big holiday – meaning travel firms could ultimately end up cutting more flights if they realize they’ll have insufficient resources to operate them.  

‘At the end of the day, they’ve got to deliver,’ Buttigieg told the Today Show. The Democrat met with top airlines executives on Thursday to warn them to avoid the Memorial Day disaster, where 2,700 flights were canceled. 

On Friday, Buttigieg tweeted: ‘Air travelers should be able to expect reliable service as demand returns to levels not seen since before the pandemic.

Luray Hixson, an ER nurse from Pittsburgh, said she got stuck for nearly two days at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport

Luray Hixson, an ER nurse from Pittsburgh, said she got stuck for nearly two days at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport

One of her flights was delayed 12 hours before it was finally canceled, forcing her to sleep at the airport

One of her flights was delayed 12 hours before it was finally canceled, forcing her to sleep at the airport

Airline executives around the world are now defending their operations amid the surge in demand.

On Tuesday, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby seemed to blame the airports for some of the problems, saying: ‘What we really want, at Newark Airport in particular, is to enforce the rules that limit the amount of flights to operations that the airport can theoretically handle.

‘But the other thing we need, they’re not the only ones, but what we really need is to get air traffic control towers back to full staffing.’

The Federal Aviation Administration has said it is working with airlines to shift air traffic control staff to in-demand locations, while also increasing usage of underutilized routes, according to the Washington Post.

Jason Reisinger, American Airlines managing director of global planning, also explained to WRAL that the entire industry is trying to adjust their schedules to accommodate the rising summer demand.

‘[We are] working schedules early on so … we have as few hiccups as we can on a given day,’ he said. 

‘Obviously, it is affecting service levels at American, but we’re working through it.’ 

And IATA Director General Willie Walsh told CNBC that the travel chaos is ‘isolated,’ noting that not every airport is experiencing problems.

Still, he admitted, the airline industry is ‘not out of the woods.’

‘Yes, we want to do better, and yes we will do better,’ Walsh said. ‘But I would strongly urge consumers looking at the opportunity to fly to reflect on the fact that this isn’t happening everywhere.

‘And in the vast, vast majority of cases, flights are operating on schedule, without disruption, without any problems at the airport, and I think you can look forward to enjoying the experience of flying again.’

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