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Flight delays, cancellations & not enough parking plague July 4 weekend travel

Travel trouble plagues beginning of holiday weekend
Travel trouble plagues beginning of holiday weekend 02:40

NEWARK, N.J. -- It's just the start of a long holiday weekend, but there are already signs of trouble for air travelers - more delays and cancellations. 

CBS2's Elijah Westbrook spoke with travelers Friday about their experience at the airport before taking to the skies. 

Flight demand is returning to near pre-pandemic levels, according to the experts. So have the travel nightmares, with airlines struggling with pilot and other staffing shortages. 

"I gave myself a full two hours because I wanted to make sure we had time to get to our gate," one traveler said. 

In some cases, that may not be enough. In our region, flight delays and cancellations on the holiday weekend are prevalent. 

"My flights got canceled twice, and then I tried rescheduling it in the morning because I heard that's what helps and that one got canceled. But luckily I got switched and here we are. I finally made it," said Alexander Mihas, traveling from Miami. 

The delays and cancellations, such as the flight Mihas is waiting for, are due to widespread staff shortages, ranging from flight traffic controllers to pilots. We're hearing this problem could last through the summer travel season, according to experts. 

"Yet and still 3.55 million will fly. But as a percentage of those who are going to travel, that's the lowest it's been since 2011," Robert Sinclair of AAA Northeast said about the July 4th weekend. 

AAA is predicting nationwide, nearly 48 million people will travel 50 or more miles from home this holiday weekend, which is up 3.7% over last year.

Watch Elijah Westbrook's report

Thousands of flights canceled as travelers head out for July 4 weekend 02:29

Travelers Westbrook spoke to say if they come across any issues, they'll just have to take it in stride. 

"I just want to get away. I want to get out of here. I've had enough. I think everyone has had enough. I don't think prices matter at this point. I think people just need to get away," said traveler Mary Gocco.

A public eager to be on the move even though air travel is getting more and more pricey. The average lowest cost is up 14% over last year at $201 per ticket.

Among those waiting in seemingly endless lines at Newark Liberty International Airport was Alam Khan, of Boonton, New Jersey. He's thrilled to be getting married to his fiancée, Aiman, Sunday in Toronto. The hitch is his flight is going nowhere.

"My suit's all ready, the shoes ready to go. I have four sisters, my nephews with me, too. Everyone's waiting. The flight's canceled," Khan told CBS2's Dave Carlin. "I'll drive there if I have to do it. It doesn't matter, nine hour drive. I'll do it. It's worth it." 

At Newark, there's an advisory from the Port Authority about parking. The agency is urgently calling on air travelers to pre-book parking spaces before getting to the airport since many lots are full. For more information about that, CLICK HERE

Airlines are facing a test on this Fourth of July holiday weekend, and if you want a sign of how it might go, the CEO of Delta Airlines is apologizing to customers. The situation is so dire, the company is taking employees with office jobs and sending them to the ticket counter to check bags. 

Planning is key. Travel experts say check the status of your flight before heading to the airport, arrive at the terminal more than two hours before your scheduled departure and have a backup plan. 

Roads are also crowded, in some areas with twice the usual number of drivers. AAA says a record 42 million people are going by car.

"It's better driving than being on the airplane, to be honest, less stress," said Joe Hari, who was driving from Palm Coast, Florida, to Maine. "We can stop whenever we want, get out and get some fresh air."

The downside is prices at the pumps. The issue was helped slightly over the last week by a drop in the global price of oil, shaving 9 cents off the average.

According to AAA, the national average for gas stands at $4.84. In New York, it's $4.92. In New Jersey, it's $4.85, and in Connecticut, it's $4.81.

"Enjoy yourself, enjoy your family and just arrive safe," one person said.

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