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Flight delays and cancellations are expected to be a disaster this holiday weekend -- what can travelers do?

Flight delays and cancellations are expected to be a disaster this holiday weekend
Flight delays and cancellations are expected to be a disaster this holiday weekend 03:04

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Buckle up for a weekend of travel chaos – starting Thursday, mass delays and cancellations are expected just to get worse heading into the holiday weekend.

As CBS 2's Marissa Perlman reported, we're learning your fate is in the hands of airlines – and whether their short staff shows up for your flight.

You know you can't get your time back – but what about your money?

Take a quick search on social media for travel delays in Chicago. The stories of sheer travel chaos at O'Hare and Midway international airports and beyond are everywhere.

Todd Larson wrote in a tweet that he spent "10 hours in the airport and never did make it to Chicago."

Vikki, who tried to fly through Chicago, said she arrived in Boston after about 30 hours of travel.

"Not sure I ever want to fly again," she tweeted.

Hundreds of flights are canceled every day. On Thursday alone, there were almost 6,000 flight delays and 670 cancellations across the U.S.

And with July 4th weekend – which is expected to mark the peak of summer travel – is it worth it even to fly at all, or should we all just stay home?

"It's just when those cancellations occur – we're seeing 6, 7 percent of flights canceled by some airlines," said transportation expert Joe Schwieterman, a professor at the Graduate School of Public Service at DePaul University and director of the DePaul's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development

Schwieterman is out with a new study shedding light on how bad air travel is getting.

Read the study

More people are taking flight – rivaling numbers we saw in 2019 – despite airlines having less capacities than they did at that time. Shortages of air traffic controllers, planes, and pilots make for a precarious situation.

"You just don't have places or flights to put people on if they're canceled," Schwieterman said. "That's what's different about this holiday."

The study shows the share of flights canceled by the four biggest U.S. airlines has been 5 percent or more in recent weeks.


If that happens this holiday weekend, airlines will not be able to reaccommodate passengers on flights the same day – or even the next day.

At 8 percent, you could be looking at up to a two-night delay for some passengers.

"It's going to be a frenzy if that happens," Schwieterman said.

And if you are delayed, you can't get your time at your destination back. But what about your money?

"There's no tradition or expectation to pay for anything except your airfare," Schwieterman said.

And what about the tens of billions of dollars in pandemic relief money that airlines received to help keep workers on the job?

"They simply haven't been able to retain their pilots and their talent, so to speak," Schwieterman said.

And while it may drive you crazy to hear your pilot tell you to "pack your patience," the expert say instead that it's better to pack a plan B, and maybe even a plan C.

This could be an alternate route by train or by car.

There are some ways to mitigate your risk of having a disaster experience while flying too. Experts say first, book a nonstop flight to your destination if you can – which will erase your risk of missing a connecting flight if your original flight is delayed.

Second, if possible, book the first flight out in the morning – which will also avoid being caught in the ripple effect of delays.

Finally, a lot of luggage has gone missing in airport chaos, so experts say if possible, stick to carry-on bags.

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