Looking for a little bit of independence this Fourth of July weekend? Good luck. Already, passengers are experiencing packed airports and planes, canceled flights, and rough customer service trying to get from here to there.
Late on Wednesday, the Heathrow airport in London — one of the the world’s busiest airfields — asked airlines to cut 30 flights that were set to leave Thursday morning because the airport could not handle the crush of passengers. A Heathrow spokesperson told Insider they were “expecting higher passenger numbers in today’s morning peak” and that limiting the number of flights was “to keep everyone safe.” The 30 flights were removed.
Some passengers didn’t learn of the sudden flight cancellations until they arrived at the airport, according to Bloomberg. Flights from British Airways, Aer Lingus, Royal Dutch Airlines, Virgin Atlantic were all reportedly canceled Thursday morning. Only adding to the flying chaos in Europe is an ongoing labor dispute with the workers’ union, causing France’s civil aviation authority to reduce flights from Charles de Gaulle airport by 17%, as per Bloomberg.
Delta said it would cut 100 flights a day in the U.S. for more than a month.
Airlines across the globe are experiencing tumult as the press of passengers closes in on the July 4 weekend. While AAA estimates 42 million Americans will be traveling by car for Independence Day weekend, the travel analysis firm Hopper wrote that nearly 13 million U.S. travelers are expected to fly from Friday through Monday. Of those, 1.8 million will be heading out of the country. Thursday and Friday are expected to be the two busiest days for airlines, with 2.7 million travelers departing.
Additionally, the Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver, and Dallas Fort Worth airports are expected to be packed over the weekend. Knowing the impending crowds, some airlines are begging passengers to change their plans.
Late on Tuesday, Delta Airlines told its passengers it’s all good if they decide to change their ticket they booked for July 1 through 4. Passengers won’t pay anything extra to change their ticket as long as they keep the same origin and destination, and the deal is good as long as they rebook their flight to take place by July 8.
The company said it is expecting to have an amount of customers this upcoming weekend “not seen since before the pandemic.” It also doesn’t help that Delta pilots are protesting for a fairer union contract, and those driving up to airports this weekend may well see these aviators down on earth, picketing outside Delta hubs. Workers claim they have been forced to work more overtime in the past few months than all of 2018 and 2019, according to Axios.
Delta has already been cutting flights, as per a statement from the airline originally posted May 26 and updated June 16. The company originally said it would be cutting 100 flights a day from July 1 through Aug. 7. The company’s update now claims they were adding “several hundred new pilots and flight attendants to the operation monthly.”
Delta’s operations chief John Laughter said “This phase of our recovery has been the most difficult. We’ve never had to bring the airline back at this speed before.”
But it’s not just Delta that’s feeling the squeeze. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that American Airlines passengers were sitting on hold with customer service for hours at a time throughout June. One radio station manager named Brian Driver had reportedly played tag with the airline’s customer service reps for a day before sitting on hold for nearly four hours, all just to get his flight pushed up. Instead of waiting any longer, he drove a full 45 minutes to the Denver airport just to get his flight changed. A spokesperson told the Journal that hold times in mid-June were at a peak caused by weather and air traffic control issues.