John F Kennedy International Airport: Frustrated travelers can be seen in long queues as they try to check in at Terminal 4
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The crisis in the airline industry will continue over the July 4 holiday as thousands face delays and cancelations amid a staff shortage and picketing pilots.  

On Thursday alone, 5,827 flights within, in or out of the United States have been delayed, while another 639 were canceled. This comes ahead of a holiday weekend, which is expected to see 3.55 million Americans fly according to AAA, with Friday expected to be the peak day for air travel.

Not only are airports likely to be jammed, the roads will be back to normal despite sustained high gas prices, with a record 42 million motorist predicted to travel at least 50 miles by road this weekend. 

In total, AAA projects that 47.9 million Americans will travel for the Fourth this year, up 3.7 percent from last year and close to the historic peak reached in 2019, before the pandemic struck.

‘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, AAA Travel. 

In addition to airport chaos and heavy traffic, holiday travelers will have to contend with higher prices. Average gas prices have soared 56 percent from a year ago, mid-range hotel prices have increased 23 percent, and average lowest airfares are up 14 percent. 

For air travelers, Newark Liberty International Airport remains the most prolific in terms of cancelations with 49 on Thursday, while Denver International has the most delays at 349. 

American Airlines canceled 8 percent of its flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, and United Airlines scrubbed 4 percent of its schedule both days, according to FlightAware. 

John F Kennedy International Airport: Frustrated travelers can be seen in long queues as they try to check in at Terminal 4

John F Kennedy International Airport: Frustrated travelers can be seen in long queues as they try to check in at Terminal 4

General view or travelers in JFK Terminal 4 in New York. KLM airlines is seen with long lines as people wait to check in

General view or travelers in JFK Terminal 4 in New York. KLM airlines is seen with long lines as people wait to check in

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Aiport: Passengers wait in line for security

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Aiport: Passengers wait in line for security 

Passengers at the Delta terminal at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Passengers at the Delta terminal at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Travellers line up at the American Airlines counters in Logan Airport at the start of the long July 4th holiday weekend in Boston, Massachusetts

Travellers line up at the American Airlines counters in Logan Airport at the start of the long July 4th holiday weekend in Boston, Massachusetts

Newark Liberty International Airport remains the most prolific in terms of cancelations with 49, while Denver International has the most delays at 349

Newark Liberty International Airport remains the most prolific in terms of cancelations with 49, while Denver International has the most delays at 349

Travelers at John F. Kennedy Airport are forced to sit down and bear long delays while trying to get out for the holiday

Travelers at John F. Kennedy Airport are forced to sit down and bear long delays while trying to get out for the holiday

Drivers sit in slow moving traffic leaving Boston at the start of the long Fourth of July holiday weekend

Drivers sit in slow moving traffic leaving Boston at the start of the long Fourth of July holiday weekend

Travelers are already facing a difficult summer as airlines expect record demand while they rebuild staff to make up for the thousands of workers who left the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Delta Air Lines took the unusual step this week of warning travelers that there could be problems over the holiday weekend. 

Fourth Of July travel by the numbers 

Here’s how the travel projections for this holiday weekend stack up against last year, according to AAA: 

 2021 (actual)

  • Average gas price: $3.12
  • Drivers: 41.8M
  • Air travelers: 3.5M
  • Other (bus, train): 900K
  • Total travelers: 46.2M
  • Airfare: $176
  • Hotel: $198
  • Car rental: $166

 2022 (forecast)

  • Average gas price: $4.86
  • Drivers: 42M
  • Air travelers: 3.55M
  • Other (bus, train): 2.42M
  • Total travelers: 47.9M
  • Airfare: $201
  • Hotel: $244
  • Car rental: $110

Delta had by far the most canceled flights of any U.S. airline over the Memorial Day holiday stretch, when U.S. carriers scrubbed nearly 2,800 flights, and again last weekend, when it canceled seven percent of flights.

American Airlines alone has delayed over 700 flights, but one pilot says that 88 percent are due to staff shortages and the delays are actually meant to spin the truth.

Delta Airlines pilots planned to start picketing on Thursday at several major airports including LAX, JFK and Atlanta, which are some of the most affected in terms of cancellations and delays. 

Dennis Tajer, active American Airlines pilot and the Communications Committee chairman for the Allied Pilots Association, claims AA is delaying flights 24 hours instead of canceling to make the cancelation numbers appear lower.

He noted that any flight delayed by 24 hours is essentially a stand-in for a canceled flight.

‘American Airlines is claiming that they have the pilots to fly the summer schedule. They’ve said that they have a training backlog, but we’re good,’ Tajer said.

‘We don’t believe them. Based on our numbers, they do not have the pilots and staffing to get this done. We’re warned them for months and month. This is a broken record, the needle is skipping on the same groove of the vinyl.’

Over 750,000 passengers have had their flights impacted in the month of June on American Airlines alone, with 75,000 just in the past two days. 

‘The house is on fire. We have buckets of water and they’ve told us not to move,’ said Tajer, who claims that solutions exist to better utilize pilots and let them work overtime, but American refuses. 

‘What’s even worse we have solutions to better utilize us. We’ve told them for the last two summers, but they’re not interested.’

American Airlines didn’t respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment. 

2022 Delta Pilots hold a organized protest at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City

2022 Delta Pilots hold a organized protest at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City

Pilots have a long and arduous process toward any strike action so many are protesting and walking picket lines on days off

Pilots have a long and arduous process toward any strike action so many are protesting and walking picket lines on days off

At least one canceled flight is seen on Thursday at Boston Logan International Airport

At least one canceled flight is seen on Thursday at Boston Logan International Airport

In the week leading up to the Fourth, the number of air travelers has almost returned to 2019 levels, TSA data show

In the week leading up to the Fourth, the number of air travelers has almost returned to 2019 levels, TSA data show

In addition, the Biden administration is blaming the airlines, saying it received billions in stimulus money to keep afloat during the pandemic and should stick to the schedule it publishes. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday.   

Buttigieg pushed back earlier this week when the head of the trade group Airlines for America blamed the FAA for delays.

‘The majority of cancellations and the majority of delays have nothing to do with air traffic control staffing,’ Buttigieg told ‘NBC Nightly News.’

Sen. Bernie Sanders demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed. 

‘The American people are sick of airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute and delaying flights for hours on end,’ he said.

Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked 10 airline CEOs this week to ‘take immediate action’ to reduce travel disruptions. The senators demanded information about how each airline decides which flights to cancel and the number of consumer refunds requested and granted. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancelation they know can’t be fully staffed

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday

Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) demanded Washington fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancelation they know can’t be fully staffed while Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (right) said airlines have until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday.

United Airlines will cut about 50 flights a day out of Newark in an attempt to reduce long delays that the airline blames on airport construction and other issues. 

The cuts – about 12 percent of United flights in Newark – will start July 1 and last the rest of the summer. United is the main airline of Newark Liberty International Airport, which is just across the Hudson River from New York City, and gets heavy use from people living in and around the city. 

Only domestic flights will be reduced, a United spokeswoman said Thursday, adding that United will not drop any destinations from Newark. The airline got a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to reduce flights, she said. 

Two weeks ago, Buttigieg called the chief executives of major U.S. airlines to a virtual meeting to discuss thousands of recent flight cancellations and delays over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. He urged airlines to ensure they can reliably operate planned summer schedules. 

Delays and cancelations cost airlines a hefty sum, with delays costing airlines around $74 a minute, or $4,500 an hour.

Defying tarmac delay rules means airlines are charged $27,500 per passenger, meaning one plane with 200 passengers could cost a $5.5 million fine.

For passengers, delays can cost about $47 of their time. In 2018, before the pandemic, delays and cancellations cost passengers almost $28 billion.

Airlines are not required by law to compensate passengers for a cancellation or delay.

Passengers have taken to social media to complain about how the delays and cancellations affected them, with many claiming they are ‘nervous to fly.’

A record 42 million people around the United States are expected to hit the road for trips over the Fourth of July holiday weekend despite average gas price surging close to $5 per gallon.

The average U.S. retail price of gasoline recently broke through $5 per gallon for the first time in history. It has gone down slightly and averaged $4.86 on Wednesday. 

While the $5 price is not record from an inflation-adjusted basis, it still represents an increase of nearly $2 per gallon from a year earlier. 

Despite the higher cost, gasoline demand is only 1 percent below the average for this time of year in the United States, and a record number of people are expected to travel by car for the holiday weekend. The 42 million figure, should it pan out, would surpass 2019’s peak, when 41.5 million people traveled by vehicle on Independence Day, according to the American Automobile Association.

Including air travel, 47.9 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday period, just 2 percent less than 2019’s 49 million, but surpassing 2021’s levels, the travel membership organization said.

Researchers argued in a 2021 report that congestion has been building in the US month-by-month since the pandemic (Pictured: Philadelphia rush hour traffic in April 2019)

Researchers argued in a 2021 report that congestion has been building in the US month-by-month since the pandemic (Pictured: Philadelphia rush hour traffic in April 2019)

A graph shows a steep drop in traffic during the pandemic and the steady increase in 2021

A graph shows a steep drop in traffic during the pandemic and the steady increase in 2021

‘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. ‘Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it´s not tapering off.’

Through April 2022, 1.017 trillion vehicle miles were reported, a rate that trails only 2019 and 2018 in terms of pace, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Flight cancelation Q&A: Why are airlines slashing so many flights and what is being done to fix it? 

Why are there so many delays and attempts by the airlines to cancel and delay flights? 

The airlines are increasingly trying to blame delays on understaffing at the Federal Aviation Administration, which manages the nation’s airspace and hires air-traffic controllers. 

The FAA has admitted it’s understaffed, especially in an important air control center in Florida, which has meant a decrease in the quality of service and an increase in delays and cancelations. 

Problems were popping up well before the weekend, with some disruptions caused by thunderstorms that slowed air traffic. 

Helane Becker, an airline analyst for Cowen, an investment firm, said there are many reasons for the disruptions, including weather, FAA ground stops that last too long and flight crews hitting their legal limit of working hours in a day. 

Why are airlines cutting flights? 

Many of them, including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue, have trimmed summer schedules to reduce stress on their operations. They are using larger planes, on average, to carry more passengers with the same number of pilots. Those steps haven’t been enough so far this summer. 

Are the pilots striking? 

The pilots are not striking. Federal law creates a long and difficult process before airline workers can legally go on strike. The pilots are still walking picket lines while remaining on the job at various airports.

The pilots plan to picket, not strike, on the days they’re not scheduled to work in order to bring attention to the issues. 

Why are pilots attempting to picket?

Pilots have complained that thinly staffed airlines are asking them to work too many flights, with more pilots reporting fatigue. 

The Air Line Pilots Association claimed earlier this week its nearly 14,000 members are working longer hours even as airlines cancel thousands of trips. 

What have officials proposed to potentially fix this or punish the airlines? 

The Biden administration is blaming the airlines, saying it received billions in stimulus money to keep them afloat during the pandemic and should stick to the schedule it publishes. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this month that airlines had until July 4 to figure out the issues and work out the kinks so travelers can have a smooth summer holiday. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to Buttigieg demanding he fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed. 

Congressional leaders are demanding the airlines provide answers as to why there continues to be disruptions, especially since the industry received $50 billion in relief during the pandemic in an effort to keep business afloat.

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