Thousands of passengers have been forced to queue for hours at security lines in New York as hundreds of unclaimed bags pile up in Los Angeles due to flight chaos across the US.
The latest travel meltdown has seen more than 17,000 flights delayed and 1,120 canceled today alone – with at least 32,000 affected over the past week.
It is expected to get even worse today on what is dubbed the busiest day of the holiday weekend, with some 52,500 flights scheduled.
Travelers at airports across the country have faced misery leading up to July 4 celebrations – with scores of passengers left stranded and out of pocket.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes the FAA, today claimed that the airlines have recovered to a ‘more typical cancelation and delay rate’ as of Thursday morning – with the exception of United.
He added: ‘The FAA will continue to work with airlines to help them minimize disruptions during the busy 4th of July travel weekend.’
A sea of unclaimed luggage was seen inside Terminal 7 of the LA International Airport on Thursday morning after nearly a week of delays and cancellations that plagued travelers.
It comes after a mixture of bad weather – including monster tornadoes – and smoke from Canadian wildfires grounded flights across the country.
NEW YORK: Pictures from LaGuardia airport in New York show passengers sleeping on the floor and in chairs as they attempt to make it to their holiday destinations unscathed on Thursday
LOS ANGELES: A sea of unclaimed luggage was seen inside Terminal 7 of the LA International Airport on Thursday morning
The ‘Misery Map’ produced by Flight Aware on Thursday showed the disruption
Suitcases piled up and created a wall-to-wall line in the baggage claim area, as airlines blamed severe weather in parts of the US as well as staffing issues for the chaos.
At least 90 flights were delayed at LAX and 15 canceled in the morning on Thursday, according to FlightAware, as passengers claimed that they had been stuck at the airport for a day and a half.
LAX is expecting at least 241,000 passengers today, with four thousand more expected on Friday – with the traveling chaos extending to July 10 when visitors will attempt to return home.
Monday saw 8,850 flights delayed and 2,252 canceled completely, while Tuesday had 7,789 delays and 2,205 cancellations, and yesterday saw a slight decrease with 7,237 delayed and 1,199 canceled – meaning at least 32,000 have been affected.
Passengers traveling on United Airlines have been worst hit by the chaos, with CEO Scott Kirby blaming the FAA for the chaos – saying they ‘failed’ the industry with low staffing coming into the week.
Airlines have explained that the flights have been delayed and canceled because of powerful storms ripping through the parts of the country, including in the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Northeast, as well as air traffic control staffing issues.
In a report published last week, the Transportation Department found that most of the 26 critical air traffic control facilities it identified were understaffed by 15 percent or more, as of March 2022.
Delays this week have mostly been attributed to bad weather, though technology may cause further disruption over the weekend as some airlines warned that their planes could be grounded over possible interference with 5G wireless service.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes the FAA, today claimed that the airlines have recovered to a ‘more typical cancelation and delay rate’ as of Thursday
LOS ANGELES At least 90 flights were delayed at LAX and 15 canceled in the morning on Thursday, according to FlightAware
LOS ANGELES: Suitcases piled up and created a wall-to-wall line in the baggage claim area, as airlines blamed severe weather in parts of the US, on Thursday
NEW YORK: Passengers have complained about being left on hold for up to six hours before the phone is hung up, with many stranded without help at LaGuardia
NEW YORK: Many have struggled to be rebooked onto flights and spent hours trying to contact customer services at Newark airport
Pictures from LaGuardia and Newark airport in New York show passengers sleeping on the floor and in chairs as they attempt to make it to their holiday destinations unscathed.
Long queues snaked beyond the security lines as passengers spent hours trying to make their way through the airport after hours of delays.
Others were forced to camp out in the check in area as they waited to find out if their travel arrangements would go ahead.
Chicago, DC and Boston airports were hit hard with cancellations and delays after being plunged into a coating of smog as smoke from Canadian wildfires plunged Washington into a Code Red air quality warning.
United Airlines have been the worst hit, with more than 600 flights canceled in just two days, and more than 500 have been delayed.
Passengers have complained about being left on hold for up to six hours before the phone is hung up, with many stranded without help.
NEW YORK: Others were forced to camp out in the check in area as they waited to find out if their travel arrangements would go ahead
NEW YORK: United Airlines have been the worst hit, with more than 600 flights canceled in just two days, and more than 500 have been delayed. Pictured: Newark Airpotrt
NEW YORK: CEO Scott Kirby claims that the FAA reduced the arrival rates at Newark – one of United’s hubs – by 40 percent and the departure rates by 75 percent
NEW YORK: Despite $54 billion of taxpayer funds funneled into airlines to keep them afloat during the pandemic, most airlines greatly reduced staff numbers
The company said that they were working through ‘higher volumes than usual’ but customers still slammed their response on social media.
CEO Scott Kirby claims that the FAA reduced the arrival rates at Newark – one of United’s hubs – by 40 percent and the departure rates by 75 percent.
One United steward wrote on social media: ‘If you can avoid flying right now, please do.’
The anonymous worker continued: ‘I’m a flight attendant with United. Your flight will be delayed or canceled. There is not enough staff to support operations right now.
‘Don’t do It unless you want to be stuck. They are stranding their flight attendants and pilots everywhere with no response in random cities.’
A spokesman for the company admitted they had been struggling, adding: ‘We know our customers are eager to get to their destinations and our airport and call center teams are working overtime to assist them.
‘As we focus on helping our customers whose travel has been disrupted over the last few days, we’re also planning ahead to be ready for the upcoming holiday weekend.
NEW YORK: Pictures from LaGuardia airport in New York show passengers sleeping on the floor and in chairs as they attempt to make it to their holiday destinations unscathed
ATLANTA: Passengers have been forced to wade through a sea of bags at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Thursday
ATLANTA: Passengers filled the atrium at Atlanta’s international airport as travel chaos continued on Thursday
ATLANTA: Bags were seen piled up outside of the baggage carousels as passengers searched for their luggage
‘We’re beginning to see improvement across our operation. As our operation improves in the days ahead, we will be on track to restore our operation for the holiday weekend.’
Hundreds of thousands of travelers have been forced to sit tight amid the chaos caused by torrential weather on the East Coast, huge crowds, inability of some airline crews to reach their scheduling offices, other staff shortages, and even a Delta jet that made a belly landing in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The delays and cancelations proved a troubling glimpse into what could happen over the long July 4 holiday weekend as airlines struggle to keep up with surging numbers of passengers.
Despite $54 billion of taxpayer funds funneled into airlines to keep them afloat during the pandemic, most airlines greatly reduced staff numbers and have found it harder than expected to rehire workers.
Many older employees accepted early retirement, while others accepted buyouts and have found new, less demanding work.
ATLANTA: Hundreds of thousands of travelers have been forced to sit tight amid the chaos caused by torrential weather on the East Coast
ATLANTA: Taxis and cars were forced to queue outside of the airport amid ongoing July 4 chaos
ATLANTA: Many passengers were forced to wait hours to be reunited with their luggage after cancellations
NEW YORK: Airline passengers wait at JFK’s Terminal 4 to check in for their flights on Air India after flight delays on Thursday
NEW YORK: Jet Blue passengers at JFK on Thursday spent hours on their phones attempting to reschedule flights
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been criticizing the airlines for more than a year.
He has accused them of failing to live up to reasonable standards of customer service and suggested that they are scheduling more flights than they can handle.
The airlines have denied that they are to blame, and instead are pointing the finger at federal authorities.
The FAA signaled earlier this year that it could struggle to keep flights moving in New York, the busiest airspace in the nation.
Facing a severe shortage of air traffic controllers at a key facility on Long Island, the FAA persuaded airlines to trim their summer schedules to avoid overloading the system.
The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents United’s cabin crews, said United was contributing to the situation.
The union said employees were waiting three hours or longer when calling a crew-scheduling center for assignments because of ‘limited telephone lines and personnel.’
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, where American and Southwest are based, took the airlines’ side in a series of tweets about delays at the New York City area’s three big airports.
PENNSYLVANIA: Haze from Canadian wildfires blankets thE Interstate 76 near Hershey
NEW YORK: One passenger curled up in a corner to get some rest while waiting for a delayed flight at JFK on Thursday
NEW YORK: Many were left clutching their baggage in departures of JFK following severe delays on Thursday
NEW YORK: Passengers settled in for a long wait at JFK on Thursday
NORTH CAROLINA: The flight landed ‘smoothly’ with 96 passengers on board, all of whom were unharmed
NORTH CAROLINA: The emergency belly landing of a Delta flight in Charlotte did not help nationwide delays
‘Staffing at FAA’s air traffic facilities in NY is at 54%,’ Cruz tweeted. ‘Yet (the Transportation Department) is blaming the weather for delays. Nonsense.’
A Transportation Department spokesperson said the agency is working with airlines to fix things, but the combination of high traffic and bad weather reduces the rate at which planes can take off and land safely, leading to delays and canceled flights.
The FAA is training about 3,000 new air traffic controllers, but most of them won’t be ready anytime soon.
Last week, the Transportation Department’s inspector general said in a report that the FAA has made only ‘limited efforts’ to adequately staff critical air traffic control centers and lacks a plan to tackle the problem.
What is causing the chaos?
The worst disruptions have been along the East Coast, which has been pummeled by thunderstorms this week. The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily held up Boston-bound flights on Wednesday. It stopped flights to all three major airports in the New York City area and two near Washington, D.C., at times Tuesday.
Huge crowds, bad weather, inability of some airline crews to reach their scheduling offices – even a Delta jet that made a belly landing in Charlotte, North Carolina – all contributed to the mess.
And it could be just the storm before the storm: The FAA predicted that Thursday would be the heaviest travel day over the July 4 holiday period. On top of that, some airline planes may be unable to fly in bad weather starting this weekend because of possible interference with 5G wireless service.
Travel has picked up steadily every year since bottoming out during the pandemic. For the past week, about 2.6 million people a day on average have been flying in the United States, about 2 percent more than in the same period during pre-pandemic 2019, according to Transportation Security Administration figures.