US air travel descended into further chaos over the holiday weekend, with New York metro airports hit the hardest — and stranded travelers coming out swinging against Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“Sunrise at the Denver airport,” tweeted grounded flyer Bree Hocking early Sunday. “No such thing as beauty sleep here. Not a wink. Thanks @United for a truly miserable start to the holiday weekend. Compensate and accommodate your passengers. @Secretary Pete.”
Foul weather, tech glitches and staffing shortages have been blamed for the massive disruptions, which continued to rage over the July Fourth holiday.
Buttigieg told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that bad weather has been the main culprit.
“If you look at the overall picture, we’ve seen a lot of improvements,” he claimed of air travel. “But we had a hard few days with severe weather at the beginning of [last] week, and that definitely put enormous pressure on the system.
“I think that more passengers understand that no one can control the weather, but anything that’s under the control of the airlines and anything that we can do on the FAA side, we need to continue pushing to make sure that there’s the smoothest possible experience for air passengers everywhere,” he said.
On Sunday, at least 550 more flights across the country had been grounded, and more than 4,000 were facing delays, according to the air-traffic site AirAware.com.
New York-area airports were among the hardest hit.
Newark International Airport in New Jersey topped the list of the nation’s airports with the most canceled flights Sunday, with 91 — or 15% of all its flights — nixed, and 95 more delayed by just early afternoon, AirAware reported.
LaGuardia Airport was next, with 54 flights canceled and 92 delayed — accounting for 11% and 20% of all flights, respectively — followed by John F. Kennedy International Airport, which saw 34 flights grounded and another 84 delayed, for 4% and 11% of all scheduled flights.
In addition to recent severe weather, air-traffic-controller staffing shortages and computer glitches at some airlines have been wreaking havoc, too.
Red-faced officials at United Airlines, which has been plagued by system-wide delays in recent weeks, have offered some passengers up to 30,000 air miles to keep them loyal amid the chaos.
Buttigieg, who last month warned airlines that new 5G rollouts by major wireless carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, could interfere with aircraft communications and cautioned airlines to be prepared, said the FAA is also moving to hire more staffers to help alleviate travel delays.
But for airline travelers stuck at the nation’s airports, it’s too little too late.
“TRAVEL ADVICE: Learn from my mistake,” airline customer Brian Sims tweeted. “The only customer service travelers are going to get from @AmericanAir is in response to public posts. That’s frustrating.”
With Post wires
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