- Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed over the weekend.
- Airlines blamed weather, staffing shortages and other issues.
- Delays aren’t uncommon during summer storm season.
A huge surge in summer travel is usually coming among the highest of the year.
Friday was the busiest day of 2022 so far at United States airports, according to numbers from the Transportation Security Administration. TSA workers screened more than 2.4 million people heading into Father’s Day and Juneteenth holiday weekend.
TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted that it was the highest volume since Nov. 28, 2021, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
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The number of passengers on Friday combined with weather delays and what the US airline industry says is more than 1,400 flights canceled, according to the Associated Press.
And that was just the beginning. In all, more than 5,000 flights were canceled over the weekend, and thousands more were delayed, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Delta Air Lines, the hardest hit, cited several reasons for the chaotic weekend.
“A variety of factors continue to affect our operations, including challenges with air traffic control, weather and unscheduled absences in some work groups,” Delta officials told the Journal.
Similar delays were seen over Memorial Day.
Weather issues are common for travelers in the stormy summertime. June and July in particular are the peak months for severe thunderstorms with high winds.
That’s also often when weather delays are most likely.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the most recent data available is about one-quarter of all US flight delays. June 2021 was the month with most during that time period. Going back five years, the numbers show that June through August are among the top months for weather delays each year.
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During those months, it’s always better to buy a ticket on a morning flight.
“A lot of times in the summer you’re getting a daytime heating thunderstorms,” weather.com meteorologist Dina Knightly, who has worked in the airline industry, said Monday.
The afternoon and early evening are typically the warmest parts of the day.
And if you are on the first flight of the day, the aircraft will most likely already be at the airport and subject to poor weather delays.
Besides storms, heat can also affect air travel. The airplane’s lift – the force that holds it aloft – is affected by the density of the air. The denser the air, the more lift it gives the plane.
“The hotter the air, the less dense it is,” Knightly said.
Airplanes, especially heavy ones like those used by commercial airlines, need more power to achieve lift in less dense air.
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The lighter the plane is, the easier it is to achieve lift.
“Sometimes when it gets really hot, they can ask for volunteers to give up their seats,” Knightly said, or occasionally cargo might be bumped.
For that reason, it’s always a good idea to have your seat assignment as early as possible.
Planes can use a longer runway to gain more speed when it’s hot. But that can cause delays if multiple planes are waiting to take off.
From October 2009 through September 2019, the nation’s 30 major airports accounted for 2.8 million weather-related flight delays, according to a previous analysis by weather.com. That totaled 181.9 million weather delay minutes, or the equivalent of almost 346 years of weather delays.
The main airports in Houston, Dallas and Denver were among those most affected by summer storms.
Experts say air travel isn’t likely to get anytime soon, at least not this summer.
“It’s going to be a Hunger Games’-like battle to get the fares you want, the flights you want,” travel analyst Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group told NPR. “And the concern is that there is absolutely no wiggle room, no flex room, in the industry if and when something goes wrong.”
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.