July 4th weekend trip: more than 92,000 travelers passed through LAX on Friday
âMore people means arriving early, planning parking and considering alternatives to driving,â LAX said on Twitter on Saturday. “Let’s all remember what summer travel is like and plan accordingly!”
Even before the figures were released on Friday, experts had predicted that travel during the long holiday weekend would be busy – and not just by pandemic standards. Experts expect it to rival the busiest Independence Day weekend in the pre-coronavirus era.
Air travel to some vacation hot spots was already surpassing pre-pandemic levels, the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday. Officials have launched a campaign to hire 6,000 workers and the agency said it will continue to hire staff until Labor Day.
The July 4 trip began with one of the busiest days at airports in 16 months.
The TSA reported the screening of 2,147,090 passengers on Thursday. That number fell just short of the record 2.17 million seen last Sunday. The TSA has said it expects the record “to be broken over the holiday weekend.”
The planes are almost full. Ultra low cost carriers specializing in shuttles to vacation destinations expect to see “load factors in the 90s,” said Chris Brown, vice president of the National Air Carriers Association.
Airlines for America, which represents the largest U.S. airlines, said flights were 89% full last week, up from 90% in the same week of 2019.
Part of the return is being made by passengers using flight credits from trips canceled during the pandemic.
Are you traveling for July 4th? What you should know before going to LAX
Southwest Airlines and American Airlines said their schedules and staff have been shattered by increasing demand and weather conditions. Data from the aviation website FlightAware shows Southwest canceled or delayed 39,728 flights last month – the most of any U.S. airline. Data showed that US flights canceled or delayed 36,714 flights.
Southwest begged flight attendants to take extra trips and offered double the regular pay. He said in a note obtained by CNN that “adverse weather conditions” put crews out of position for the next flight, and he said fewer flights between cities made it harder to reposition crew members. .
âIf you are healthy and can do it safely, please help your fellow Cohearts by choosing the available shifts,â wrote Southwest Executive Vice President Alan Kasher.
American said it would preventively cut 1% of flights from its schedule until mid-July, citing bad weather and understaffing. Anticipated changes mean “impacting the smallest number of customers” and changing them.
Travelers taking the train instead will see more Amtrak service. It recently started running more trains along the east coast and restored pre-pandemic service for meals on long-haul routes in the west.
No matter how travelers depart, they need to be patient, experts say.
âYou’re going to have a lot of company on the road and in and around the sky at all times,â said Gross of AAA. “So expect it won’t always be the smoothest, but you’re going to get there and you’re going to have fun.”
The unruly skies
As the number of passengers increases, reports of passengers refusing to follow crew instructions, or even becoming violent, also increase.
The Federal Aviation Administration received more than 3,200 unruly passenger reports this year and initiated 491 investigations. On average over the past 15 years, the FAA has opened about 180 investigations a year, and officials say the number of reports filed has never been large enough to warrant a tally.
âNow the public is coming back and forth and treating flight attendants like punching bags, and they do it verbally and physically,â Nelson of the Flight Attendants Union said.
“The conflict is mounting very quickly,” she added. “Everyone is at stress level 10. Everyone needs a little help right now and we ask everyone to be a help.”
Airlines that faced an uncertain future last summer are seeing passengers return in droves. United Airlines told CNN that even with depressed business and international travel, Thursday is the busiest travel day since the start of the pandemic.
âThe demand for recreation is over 100%,â United CEO Scott Kirby told CNN. “The recovery indicates the enormous desire of people to take back life.”
CNN Wire contributed to this report.
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