DALLAS: Backups are easing at US airports thanks to a break in the weather, but United Airlines continues to struggle, accounting for more than 80% of canceled flights in the United States early Thursday.
United vowed to get back on track for the July 4 holiday weekend when the number of air travelers could set a pandemic-era record, though Thursday is expected to be the busiest day of the holiday stretch at the nation’s airports.
Hundreds of thousands of people have had travel plans thrown in the air after a wave of storms raked the Northeast over the past few days and frustrations are running high.
Airports in Chicago, Denver and Newark, New Jersey — all hubs for United — were seeing the most delays on Thursday, according to FlightAware.
By late morning on the East Coast, United had canceled more than 350 flights, the bulk of the 400-plus cancellations toted up by FlightAware. The Chicago carrier is poised to lead all airlines in cancellations for a sixth straight day.
United CEO Scott Kirby blames the airline’s struggles in Newark on a shortage of air traffic controllers in the New York City area. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is pushing back against the criticism while conceding that a key Federal Aviation Administration facility in New York is severely understaffed.
“United Airlines has some internal issues they need to work through. They have really been struggling this week, even relative to other US airlines,” Buttigieg told CNN. “But where we do agree is that there need to be more resources for air traffic control.”
The FAA plans to hire 3,300 controllers over two years, but they won’t be ready to help this summer, much less this weekend.
United is offering triple pay to flight attendants who are scheduled off this weekend but agree to pick up extra flights, according to their union. The Association of Flight Attendants also says crews calling in for assignments have been put on hold for three hours or longer.