WASHINGTON — You have heard a lot lately about travel delays and cancelations at the airport. During the July 4th holiday weekend, 1.8% of all flights in the U.S. were canceled.
While that number was not as high as experts feared going into the weekend, a stunning 21% of flights were delayed.
That's one in every five flights. So far, 2022 has seen more flight cancellations than in all of 2021.
According to the travel blog "The Points Guy," American and Delta lead the way in cancelations within the last month or so.
All of these travel delays may have you wondering where did all the money that taxpayers gave airlines during the height of the pandemic go?
In total, taxpayers gave around $54 billion dollars to airlines so they could prevent massive layoffs when no one was traveling. According to industry experts, that money is mostly gone with the problem going well beyond cash.
United CEO Scott Kirby said in April on an earnings call, "there simply aren't enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years."
One reason is that many airlines offered buyouts and early retirement incentives during the pandemic that many pilots took advantage of.
Filling those positions for many airlines hasn't been easy. All of this suggests delays and cancellations will be part of the travel experience for a while which is why the federal government is trying to address other issues to limit delays.
The Department of Transportation is reminding passengers on canceled flights they are entitled to refunds, not just vouchers or points.
Airlines may offer you points or miles as compensation for a canceled flight. When deciding whether to accept (miles are worth about 1-2 cents), remember that my department enforces a REQUIREMENT that they offer cash refunds when you can't travel due to a cancellation.— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) July 5, 2022
The FAA is working to alleviate crowded airspace in states like Florida and New York, which have seen an increase in routes and, in turn, delays.
More flights are also flying at lower altitudes to avoid weather challenges, even though that burns more fuel.
All of this is happening as the air traffic control industry is struggling to recruit staff as well. For many lawmakers though, it's not enough.
Senator Bernie Sanders wants the Department of Transportation to be more aggressive with fining airlines when flights are canceled in certain situations.
The American people are sick of airlines ripping them off, canceling flights at the last minute and delaying flights for hours on end. It's time for @SecretaryPete to fine airlines $55,000 per passenger for every flight cancellation they know can’t be fully staffed. pic.twitter.com/NE7H03U9QU— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) June 29, 2022