Flight Cancellations Pile Up on Busy Memorial Day Weekend

Thousands of scrubbed flights over a four-day period speak to the growing concerns forecasters have for summer-travel crowds.

Flight Cancellations Status Airport
Photo Credit: kay fochtmann for Adobe Stock

Atlanta (AP) — Nearly 7,000 flights worldwide were cancelled during the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend in the U.S., further raising concerns about airline performance for the coming summer travel season. About 1,640 flights were scrubbed Monday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, surpassing the previous day's total by nearly 200. That followed more than 2,300 cancellations Friday and another 1,500 on Saturday. Nearly 450 of Sunday's cancellations involved aircraft scheduled to fly to or from U.S. cities.

Airlines and tourist destinations are anticipating huge crowds this summer as travel restrictions ease and pandemic fatigue overcomes lingering fear of contracting Covid-19 during travel. Many forecasters believe the number of travelers will match or even surpass prepandemic levels. However, airlines have thousands fewer employees than they did in 2019, and that has, at times, been a major contributing factor to widespread flight cancellations.

Delta Air Lines cancelled the most flights among major U.S. airlines this weekend, with more than 250 flights, or 9 percent of its operations, eliminated Saturday. One hundred sixty Delta flights were cancelled by Sunday evening, according to FlightAware.

Saturday's cancellations were due to bad weather and "air traffic control actions," Atlanta-based Delta said in an email to The Associated Press, noting it had been trying to cancel flights at least 24 hours in advance of the Memorial Day weekend.

Delta announced on its website Thursday that from July 1 to Aug. 7, it would reduce service by about 100 daily departures, primarily in parts of the U.S. and Latin America that Delta frequently serves.

"More than any time in our history, the various factors currently impacting our operation — weather and air traffic control, vendor staffing, increased Covid case rates contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups — are resulting in an operation that isn't consistently up to the standards Delta has set for the industry in recent years," Delta's chief customer experience officer Allison Ausband said in a post.

People who are only now booking travel for the summer are experiencing the sticker shock resulting from high demand and constrained supply. Domestic airline fares for summer are averaging more than $400 for a round trip, 24 percent higher than this time in 2019, before the pandemic, and a robust 45 percent higher than a year ago, according to travel-data firm Hopper.