The summer vacation is back — if you can get there, that is. As resurgent demand for air travel collides with a severe staffing shortage in the aviation industry, delayed and canceled flights are rippling through the system. Add in the normal seasonal turbulence of summer thunderstorms and a pilot shortage that predated the pandemic, and you have a recipe for disaster.
On average, about 3% of U.S. flights have been canceled year-to-date, according to flight-tracking firm FlightAware. On Memorial Day weekend, about 5% of scheduled U.S. flights were canceled, and 26% were delayed. On Juneteenth weekend, 6% of flights were canceled, according to Kathleen Bangs, spokesperson at FlightAware.
As the summer travel season heats up, it’s becoming harder for airlines to keep up with demand from travelers making up for lost time during the pandemic. The Transportation Security Administration has screened at least 2 million passengers a day since the beginning of June, and traffic at some U.S. some airports has already surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
If you’re planning on flying anywhere for the Fourth of July or later in the summer, here’s what you need to know.
How to avoid getting stuck in the first place
Your best chance to prevent—or at least mitigate—disruption to your travel plans comes when you book your trip.
If you absolutely have to be somewhere by a certain time this summer, leave a day early. “If your arrival time to your destination is time-sensitive, you should probably plan an extra day as a cushion,” says Paul Hudson, president of advocacy group