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More passengers, not enough staff leading to Fourth of July weekend airline delays and cancellations

On Friday, 100 flights on average were delayed and 50 were canceled.

PHOENIX — In anticipation of the 4th of July travel, AAA is estimating 3.5 million people are planning to fly.

People flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and other airports across the nation are encountering delays and cancellations.

More people are traveling than expected

Those in the airline industry said that travel has picked back up quickly as COVID-19 vaccinations have rolled out.

“Travel has come back faster than anticipated,” Brent Bowen, founder of National Airline Quality Rating said.

Bowen said that as travel picks up, airlines have to work to keep up but many have struggled with having enough staff.

“For example, fewer flights are on time, more baggage is getting lost, more consumers are complaining,” Bowen said. “It’s the mere volume of people on the holiday weekend that puts strain on the system.”

Airlines are still working to hire enough staff

“The early outs that have left, they did not back-fill those positions,” Gary Peterson, Transport Workers Union Air Division director said. “So I think the airlines are trying to play catchup trying to get people back to work.”

Peterson said airlines are trying to hire people, but training and background checks for badging have taken time.

“Pretty much every flight, every seat is getting filled,” Peterson said. “And unfortunately in the background, there is not enough staffing to fill all the required positions from pilots through flight attendants, mechanics, right down to the folks that handle the passengers’ bags.”

Airlines also stored some of their aircrafts due to lack of demand during the height of the pandemic. Getting those planes back into the air is affected by the lack of staff too.

“The maintenance side of the operation, and the pilots, have to do a couple of checks, or a substantial amount of checks, to put a plane back into service that’s been put into storage like that,” Peterson said.

Ultimately, passengers are impacted

As 12 News checked on delayed and canceled flights out of Phoenix Sky Harbor on Friday, on average, more than 100 flights were delayed and more than 50 flights had been canceled. Those numbers fluctuated throughout the day, with more cancelations as the day progressed.

Both Peterson and Bowen encouraged patience for those traveling over the weekend, saying those who are working at the airport are doing the best they can to get flights out on time and safely.

Victoria Harris was one passenger who needed to wait out her delayed flight to Florida from Sky Harbor.

“It’s kind of a pain, you know, with it being the Fourth, because I have plans with friends and everything. It’s definitely an annoyance, but I’ll be here with a book,” Harris said.

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