U.S. airlines canceled or delayed thousands of flights over the weekend as bad weather and staffing shortages add up to more frustration for passengers.
More than 7,000 domestic flights were delayed and about 650 were canceled on Saturday, according to FlightAware data. On Sunday, an additional 8,100 flights were delayed and 950 were canceled, the flight tracker website said. Turmoil on the tarmac continued Monday, with more than 500 flights canceled and 2,800 delayed by mid-afternoon.
The pile up at airports is impacting all types of travelers, including professional athletes. WNBA player Nneka Ogwumike tweeted Monday that her team's weekend flight was delayed three times. Ogwumike said she and her Los Angeles Sparks teammates waited for hours hoping the flight would get back on schedule, to no avail.
"This is the first time in my 11 seasons that I've ever had to sleep in the airport," she said, adding that her team's flight was eventually canceled. "It was only a matter of time. So half of us are sleeping in the airport; half of us are at a hotel cause there weren't enough rooms."
Sabrina Amorim, an animal scientist in Virginia, vented her frustration with Delta Air Lines on Sunday in a tweet citing flight delays, cancellations and a long wait to speak with customer service representatives.
Amid the disruptions marring the summer travel season, there is one potential bright spot for passengers: quicker refunds. The U.S. Department of Transportationto travelers can get their refund within seven days if they paid by credit card and their flight was delayed by three hours for a domestic flight or six hours for an international voyage. Agency officials are soliciting public comment for 90 days before finalizing the rule.
Bad weather this past weekend is partially to blame for the raft of delays and cancellations. Most of New Mexico, along with regions of Arizona and Colorado, saw thunderstorms throughout Saturday, while heavy rain and flash floods hit the Chicago area and much of the Midwest on Sunday.
Thunderstorms could slow flights on Monday in Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York, Orlando and Tampa, the FAA said.
Heavy weather forces airlines to delay a trip until it passes. Under federal law, commercial flight crews may not fly more than 8 hours per day for trips with one pilot or 10 hours for crews with two pilots. Airline crew must also rest for a minimum of 10 hours before a flight. As a result, longer delays can require passengers to wait for a replacement team to staff the flight.
Many airlines are also experiencing staff shortages, particularly pilots.
"There is a pilot shortage at the regional airlines because the mainline carriers (like American, Delta and United) hire from the regionals," Derek Kerr, chief financial officer for American Airlines, told the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, larger carriers are struggling to train new pilots quickly enough, he added.
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