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Chaos at U.S. airports as airlines cancel thousands of flights

·2 min read

Americans didn't let high gas prices and airport chaos keep them at home this Fourth of July.

Millions of travelers packed into airports over the holiday weekend, and many were met with chaos as thousands of flights were delayed or cancelled.

The Transportation Security Administration estimates it screened more than 6 million people Friday through Sunday — a number close to pre-pandemic levels. Close to 2.5 million passengers were screened on Friday alone, making it the busiest day at U.S. airports since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is in the middle of growing demand, staff shortages and high gas prices, a combination that led to headaches for hundreds of thousands of travelers. Nearly 17,000 flights were delayed and more than 1,400 were canceled over the weekend, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.

One of those frustrated passengers is Alam Khan, whose flight from New Jersey to Toronto was canceled days before his wedding.

"We just got here, they let us know right now that it got canceled," Khan said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been under pressure to address the chaos.

"This is something that's affecting all of us and it's affecting the economy when that happens because so many people can't get to where they need to be for work, so many people can't get to loved ones," he told "Sunday Morning" on CBS.

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Buttigieg is calling on airlines to do better, noting that the industry received a $54 billion bailout at the height of the pandemic.

"We sent a lot of taxpayer funding, specifically for the purpose of keeping people employed at these airlines," he said. "And now, they need to have the people and they need to have the resources to get people where they need to go."

This year, more flights have been delayed compared to any other year in the past decade. Staffing shortage is one of the biggest factors at play, specifically pilots. Just last Thursday, Delta pilots held protests across the country to demand higher pay and better work conditions.

The mayhem at airports may be why 42 million Americans opted to bypass airports entirely this holiday and hit the road instead — despite near record-high gas prices.

That's what Khan eventually did so he could make it to his wedding. He drove more than nine hours to Toronto after his rebooked flight from Newark was also canceled.

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