BERKELEY, California (AFP) – The Fourth of July weekend US airports are packed with the biggest crowds since the pandemic began in 2020.
About 2.49 million passengers passed through security checkpoints at US airports on Friday, topping the previous pandemic-era record of 2.46 million set earlier in the week. by numbers Released Saturday by the Transportation Security Administration.
Rising numbers show that leisure travelers are not deterred from travel due to price hikes, the ongoing spread of COVID-19, or concerns about flight delays and frequent cancellations.
Friday’s passenger volume saw a 13% increase from July 1 last year, which fell on the Thursday before July 4th. The number of passengers traveling through US airports this year exceeded the 2.35 million passengers screened at security checkpoints on the Friday before July 4th in 2019, but that was about a week before Independence Day.
In an even more telling sign of how close US air travel is to pre-pandemic conditions, an average of 2.33 million passengers passed through security checkpoints at domestic airports during the seven days ending July 1. It averaged about 2.38 million passengers during the same period in 2019, according to the TSA.
But airlines are struggling to keep up with surging demand amid a staff shortage and a variety of other issues that have led to repeated waves of flight delays and cancellations that have turned some vacations into a harrowing ordeal.
Several airlines, including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue, have responded to the challenge by reducing their summer schedules in an effort to reduce the inconveniences — and backlash — caused by flight delays and cancellations. They are scrambling to hire and train more pilots.
The headaches continued on Friday, although they weren’t as bad as at other times in recent months. There were more than 6,800 flight delays and 587 cancellations affecting US airports on Friday, according to the FlightAware Tracking Website.
The unrest extended into Saturday as well, with thunderstorms complicating matters on the East Coast and parts of the Midwest. By late Saturday, nearly 4,000 flights had been delayed and more than 600 canceled at US airports, according to FlightAware.
Besides flight delays and cancellations, travelers also had to pay higher prices for paid tickets due to higher fuel costs and other inflation factors, as well as navigate around the health risks posed by continued COVID-19 infection.
The travel error also causes highway congestion, even with the national average price of gasoline Hovering around $5 a gallon – and over $6 a gallon in California and all the popular tourist attractions. AAA predicts that nearly 48 million people will travel at least 50 miles or more from home over the weekend, slightly fewer than in 2019.