United Airlines was struggling Friday to recover from a week of flight delays and cancellations, testing the resilience of its business as people headed to airports ahead of the busy July 4 holiday.
The airline’s troubles began this past weekend in the New York area. At the time, United blamed the disruption on thunderstorms and a lack of staff at federal air traffic control facilities. Other airlines suffered flight delays and cancellations at the time, too, but by Wednesday, United’s problems came to the fore as it spread to its operations across the country.
The situation appeared to improve somewhat on Thursday. After canceling about a quarter of its flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, United has canceled about 18 percent of its schedule, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking company. However, the number of flights United canceled on Thursday, more than 520, exceeded cancellations by other airlines. SkyWest Airlines, which operates flights for United and several other major airlines, was in second place, canceling just over 100 flights.
The airline said it is keeping a close eye on the weather in Denver and Chicago, two of its hubs, and that it hopes to reduce the number of last-minute cancellations. As of mid-morning Friday, United had canceled more than 200 flights, or 7 percent of its schedule for the day, according to FlightAware. Another 280 flights have been delayed.
“We are seeing continued meaningful development today following overnight efforts to continue reform and fixture schedules separating crews,” United said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. “As the recovery progresses, delays and cancellations will continue to decrease as we head into what we expect to be a very busy weekend.”
Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, He singled out the airline on Twitter on Friday morning, noting that other airlines had recovered from bad weather earlier in the week.
The disruption comes during one of the busiest periods for air travel in years. The Transportation Security Administration reported screening more than 2.7 million people at airport checkpoints on Thursday, one of its busiest days since 2019. Only four other days have been busier since the pandemic began, all in recent weeks. AAA Travel Club He said expected Nearly 4.2 million people travel by air this weekend, up 6.6 percent from 2019.
Throughout the week, United passengers reported having to sleep in airports and wait in line for hours to rebook flights. Some travelers said they had to wait days for checked bags to be retrieved.
The turbulence left pilots and flight attendants frustrated, too. Many had to wait hours for reassignment after flights were cancelled. And according to social media posts, some flight attendants slept at airports as well. The complaints from the airline’s employees mirror those of Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants and pilots during that airline’s largest operational meltdown around Christmas.
“The weather last weekend affected everyone, but United is the only airline still struggling to recover and we know why,” said Ken Diaz, president of the United Chapter of the Flight Attendants Association-CWA, which represents more than 25,000 United flight attendants. . in a statement on Thursday. “United management’s failure to map crew scheduling, flight attendant support staff and more has exacerbated these operational issues and left passengers and flight attendants waiting for answers for hours at a time.”
Diaz said United had “lost” crews in its system for several days due to the crash. He also said the union had warned management last year of problems that could contribute to further disruptions, but that the airline had “launched” an ambitious flight schedule this summer. Mr Diaz said United used some of the union’s recommendations to get around the current disruption, including making changes to its schedule and agreeing to pay flight attendants three times their usual wages for picking up flights through July 6.
The pilots expressed similar frustrations.
“It is United Airlines management that is failing our loyal customers by ignoring warning signs and failing to plan properly,” said Capt. Garth Thompson, president of the United Branch of the Airline Airline Pilots Association, which represents more than 15,000 of the airline’s union pilots. Air Force pilots said in a statement.
“Extreme travel lover. Bacon fanatic. Troublemaker. Introvert. Passionate music fanatic.”