Chaos at airports in the United States have already begun ahead of the Fourth of July, weekend when an estimated 48 million Americans are expected to travel.
The American Automobile Association, a non-profit, has estimated 47.9 million Americans will hit the road or take to the skies over the Independence Day long holiday weekend from June 30 to July 4.
This prediction comes as the nation’s top airline carriers are facing trouble, with more than 650 domestic flights being canceled so far Monday, according to Flight Aware.
“The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “People are ready for a break and despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much-needed vacation.”
Close to 1 in 5 flights (17%) out of Newark Liberty International Airport were canceled, while 37% of flights from LaGuardia Airport were reportedly delayed, according to the New York Post.
The United States has been witnessing mass flight cancellations in recent months, in part, due to pilot and airline staff shortage. Lack of air traffic controllers on the ground added to the issue. Airlines said refilling positions post the wave of layoffs and resignations during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge.
Trade group Airlines for America blamed a shortage of Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers for the travel chaos. However, the FAA claimed air travel was a mess due to the $50 billion in taxpayer money that airlines received after the pandemic.
“People expect when they buy an airline ticket that they’ll get where they need to go safely, efficiently, reliably and affordably,” the FAA said in a statement. “After receiving $54 billion in pandemic relief to help save the airlines from mass layoffs and bankruptcy, the American people deserve to have their expectations met.”
Memorial Day and Juneteenth holidays saw thousands of flights canceled or delayed across the country.
Independence Day is expected to be the second busiest since 2000 as travel volumes continue to climb, AAA said.