The feared repeat of last summer’s travel woes began to materialize this week, with thousands of flights delayed or canceled amid inclement weather and staff shortages.
The problems began last weekend, with the cancellation of almost 2,000 US flights, according to FlightAware. The disruptions continued through Monday, when more than 11,000 US flights were delayed or cancelled. At least 7,300 were affected on Tuesday.
By Wednesday, delays and cancellations had begun to level off on about 2,000 US flights, according to FlightAware.
The delays come as the United States faces an ongoing shortage of air traffic controllers. It’s a problem United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby highlighted in a letter to employees Monday, blaming the shortages on potential headaches in the coming weeks.
«I’m … frustrated that the FAA frankly failed us this weekend,» Kirby said, adding that he estimated that more than 150,000 United customers had experienced outages «due to FAA personnel issues and their ability to manage the traffic».
A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said: «We will always collaborate with anyone who is seriously willing to join us in solving a problem.»
The shortage is unlikely to be resolved quickly, Zach Griff told travel website The Points Guy. Personnel problems are also likely to be compounded by a number of issues.
«When thunderstorms hit, it’s up to controllers to recalibrate the overhead network, and it’s taking them longer because they’re understaffed,» Griff said. «And some of those people are not the experienced guys who have been through this before. This is not something that can be solved overnight.»
Griff said it’s somewhat unusual for storm activity to continue as it has in recent days in the Northeast, and current weather forecasts suggest more storms are likely in the area this weekend. The situation could also be exacerbated by ongoing visibility problems caused by smoke emanating from the wildfires in Canada.
The travel year had started relatively well until the most recent problems, said Kathleen Bangs, a spokeswoman for FlightAware. But she said she’d be surprised if the summer travel blues didn’t linger, especially in the Northeast, where the air traffic controller shortage is most acute.
«It would be a pleasant surprise if we don’t continue to see a traffic jam,» he said.
Tips for rebooking a flight
To avoid getting stuck in a never-ending rebooking line at your airline terminal, get online right away and start looking for alternative ways to travel. Experts say that Google’s flight search option is the best bet for finding the most up-to-date options when it comes to getting a new flight, which can also be searched by a number of criteria, including price.
If you’re strapped for cash and looking to rebook, you’ll still want to try calling the airline before or while you’re waiting in line with an in-person booking change agent. Important: Not all major airlines have rebooking agreements with other airlines. Those that do are: Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and United. The ones that aren’t: Allegiant, Frontier, Southwest and Spirit.
Unfortunately, you have few rights if your flight is delayed or canceled for reasons beyond an airline’s control.
According to the US Department of Transportation website, only factors such as crew maintenance or issues, cabin cleanliness, baggage loading, and fueling count as part of an airline’s check.
If your flight was delayed by more than three hours or canceled for any of those reasons and it takes more than three hours to rebook your trip, you are entitled to a meal or cash meal voucher.
For a one-night delay or one-night cancellation, you are entitled to complimentary hotel accommodations and complimentary ground transportation to and from a hotel. Overnight hotel accommodation and travel to and from a hotel do not apply to border airlines. Click here for more information.
If your flight is delayed for any other reason, such as weather, you are not entitled to any compensation or refund.
What are your rights if your flight is significantly delayed or canceled
In this situation, you are only entitled to a refund if you do not accept an offer to rebook on another flight. That also means you don’t have to accept an airline coupon offer.
According to the Department of Transportation: “If an airline cancels a passenger’s flight or makes a significant change to the flight, regardless of the reason, airlines must provide an immediate refund to a ticketed passenger, including those with non-refundable tickets, in the event the passenger decide not to. accept the alternative offered, such as rebooking on another flight.”