Six days of bad weather, especially at hub airports, has kept myriad travelers from reaching their destination this week. According to FlightAware, a website that tracks delays and cancellations, more than 8,000 U.S. flights have been axed since Saturday, June 24, and an additional 30,000-plus were delayed.
Only days ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, many travelers with upcoming flights may be wondering if they’ll make it to their destination.
“Significant systematic delays and cancellations can take a few days to work out since planes and crew are out of position,” said Gary Leff, author of ViewFromTheWing.com. “However, that does seem to mostly be happening, and things should be much-improved entering the weekend.”
Brett Snyder, president of Cranky Concierge, an air travel assistance service (including urgent help when flights are canceled or delayed), echoed that sentiment, saying that airlines have said they “hope to be well into the recovery by the weekend.” But he added that it really all depends on external factors.
“Sunday and Monday look like stormy days up and down the East Coast,” Snyder said. “If that materializes in ways that block air traffic, then it could get ugly once again. But with summer storms, you just never know how or when they will materialize.”
As of 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 29, more than 500 flights had been canceled and more than 3,500 were delayed for the day—a number that is likely to increase as poor weather continues across the country. The FAA’s Daily Air Traffic Report on Thursday noted that low clouds and thunderstorms near airports in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, and all of Florida could cause more problems nationwide.
Airports in the Boston and New York areas have been hit the hardest during the week, with nearly half of all flights delayed or canceled on Monday and Tuesday, which caused a ripple effect throughout the country.
“Airlines handle crew assignments differently—for instance, crew may scatter at hubs, so when a flight delays it’s not just subsequent flights using that aircraft that are affected (and a domestic plane might work five or six segments in a day) but also the crew from that aircraft that will work different flights,” Leff said. “The captain might be needed for one other flight, the copilot for a different one, and flight attendants for others still. In this way, delays from a single flight headed to a hub city can cascade.”
Some of the hardest hit hub airports include Chicago, Denver, and Houston. According to FlightAware’s MiseryMap, at least 25 percent of flights into or out of those airports were delayed or canceled between Monday and Wednesday.
This comes at a time when there are a record number of fliers. On Sunday, June 25, TSA counted that 2,756,488 people went through its various checkpoints across the country. That exceeds 2022 numbers for that day by nearly 300,000 people, and 2021 figures by roughly 600,000 people.
What to do if your flight is canceled
If your flight is canceled and you still want to travel, airlines are required by the Department of Transportation to rebook you for free on the next available flight. However, given the scope of the cancellations and how full flights are this summer, it’ll be more difficult to find seats, especially for families traveling together. The next available flight could be a few days away, depending on departure and arrival airports.
You can also ask to be put on another airline’s flight to the same destination. Airlines aren’t required to move passengers onto a competitor’s plane, but they can, and in cases where there’s an avalanche of travelers caught in limbo, they often do. Alerting the agent to alternative flight options can help your cause. You can also try an urgent air travel assistance company, like Cranky Concierge, which specializes in this kind of research and rebooking, for a fee.
If you no longer wish to fly, you are entitled to a full refund (even if it’s a nonrefundable ticket) in the original form of payment. Airlines may ask that you accept a voucher for future travel, which you don’t have to accept—just be polite but firm that you’d like the funds returned to your credit card. However, if you do accept a voucher, make sure to ask about when it expires.