Travel Chaos Grips US Airports as Extreme Weather Disrupts Independence Day Plans
As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, travel chaos looms over US airports due to extreme weather conditions affecting more than 100 million people. The situation has resulted in over 3,000 flight delays or cancellations nationwide. While storms threaten the eastern parts of the US, the southern and western regions continue to grapple with a scorching heat wave. This unprecedented travel disruption has left thousands of passengers stranded and raised concerns about the efficiency of airline operations during severe weather events.
The Transportation Security Administration reported Sunday having the highest number of passengers in US airport history. However, the surge in air travel was met with a record number of delays and cancellations.
United Airlines was the most severely impacted carrier, accounting for over 300 postponed flights, surpassing other major US airlines by a significant margin. In a letter to employees, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby described the situation as one of the most challenging weeks in his career, citing thunderstorms at the airline’s largest hub in Newark, New Jersey, as a major contributing factor.
While United Airlines offered compensation in the form of 30,000 frequent flyer miles, estimated to be worth $360, some passengers remained dissatisfied. A family from Atlanta shared their ordeal of being stuck in three different airports over five days. The frustrations were further heightened when it was revealed that CEO Scott Kirby had chartered a private jet during the disruption, leading to public outcry and a subsequent apology.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg acknowledged the chaos caused by severe weather and assured the public that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was taking steps to address the situation. He announced plans to hire 1,500 new air traffic controllers this year and an additional 1,800 next year, aiming to bolster the capacity to handle such weather-related challenges in the future. Meanwhile, concerns over potential disruptions related to a new 5G rollout near airports were dismissed by the Department of Transportation, stating that there were no major flight disruptions related to this matter.
The eastern US is bracing for thunderstorms, with some areas expected to experience large hail. These storms stretch from Mississippi to Massachusetts, affecting northern states like Montana and Minnesota as well. Meanwhile, the scorching heatwave in the southern region is predicted to persist, with record-breaking temperatures expected to move up the west coast, impacting California and Oregon. Adding to the challenges, more than 150,000 residents in the US Midwest are still without power due to storms that hit over the weekend.