Air travel chaos leads to flight disruptions and frustration at LAX – NBC Los Angeles

on Jun28
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Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport and throughout the country are encountering extensive flight delays and cancellations blamed in part on severe weather days ahead of the busy the July 4 holiday travel weekend.

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 900 flights have been delayed in the U.S., according to FlightAware. Cancellations topped more than 670 flights.

Those numbers were changing by the minute in an ominous sign ahead of the holiday weekend. Travel is expected to peak on Thursday with more than 52,500 total flights, likely the biggest travel day of the holiday period.

Most of the cancellations and delays were on the East Coast, but disruptions there and elsewhere are causing problems on the West Coast, too. More than 100 flights were delayed and 19 were canceled Wednesday morning at LAX, according to FlightAware tracking.

“The plans keep changing,” one LAX traveler told NBCLA. “Literally, by the minute, it’s changing.”

About 6,500 flights were delayed and about 1,900 canceled on the East Coast Tuesday. United Airlines, with a major hub in Newark, New Jersey, canceled about 500 flights or 18% of its schedule, and JetBlue canceled 16% of its flights, according to FlightAware.

The delays are being compounded by thunderstorms that raked the Northeast on Tuesday. At various times, the Federal Aviation Administration held up flights bound for LaGuardia Airport in New York and Reagan Washington National and Baltimore-Washington airports near the nation’s capital.

In addition to bad weather, a technology failing also contributed to to airline disruptions.

What should you do if your flight is disrupted?

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes the FAA, has been beating up on the airlines for more than a year. He has accused them of failing to live up to reasonable standards of customer service and suggested that they are scheduling more flights than they can handle.

The airlines are punching back.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby blamed a shortage of federal air traffic controllers for massive disruptions last weekend at its Newark hub.

“We estimate that over 150,000 customers on United alone were impacted this weekend because of FAA staffing issues and their ability to manage traffic,” Kirby wrote in a memo to employees Tuesday night.

United could be contributing to its struggles. The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents the airline’s cabin crews, said it complained about wait times of more than three hours for workers who called a crew scheduling center that had “limited telephone lines and personnel.” The union told flight attendants near the end of their shifts to tell supervisors and find a hotel room.

The FAA has admitted that it is understaffed at key facilities including one in the New York City region. It is training about 3,000 new air traffic controllers, but most of them won’t be ready anytime soon. Last week, the Transportation Department’s inspector general said in a report that the FAA has made only “limited efforts” to adequately staff critical air traffic control centers and lacks a plan to tackle the problem.

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