Flight cancelations soared Sunday, casting a dark cloud over approaching Fourth of July weekend travel plans — as airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration sparred over who is to blame.
At least 671 flights had been canceled within, into or out of the US by early Sunday afternoon, according to tracking website Flight Aware. Delta had scrapped 204 flights by 2:30 p.m. EST and Southwest Airlines axed more than 100.
At Baltimore/Washington International Airport, where Southwest has a hub, 10% of all flights were cancelled Sunday. Approximately 4% percent of flights out of LaGuardia Airport were nixed as well.
An estimated 3.5 million Americans are expected to travel by plane during the upcoming holiday weekend, one of the busiest of the year, according to the American Automobile Association.
The nonprofit group said that despite soaring gas prices, a record 42 million Americans are expected to take road trips for the Fourth of July, in part because of the recent chaos at airports.
Air travel over the busy Juneteenth and Father’s Day weekends earlier this month was hampered by thousands of flight delays and cancellations.
Similar troubles snarled air traffic over Memorial Day weekend and the winter holidays.
To make matters worse, the average price of a plane ticket is currently $201, up 14% from last year, AAA said.
Higher prices come as the FAA and major US airlines are pointing fingers at each for others over the ongoing travel chaos.
Airlines said they are contending with shortages of pilots, flight attendants and other key staffers following a wave of layoffs and resignations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airlines for America, which represents heavyweights like Delta, United and Southwest, also said the delays and cancellations are in part because there is a shortage of FAA air traffic controllers.
But the FAA denied there was a shortage of air traffic controllers and cast doubt on the airline staffing crises claims.
“People expect when they buy an airline ticket that they’ll get where they need to go safely, efficiently, reliably and affordably,” the agency said, according to CNBC. “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.”