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CLEVELAND -- Cancelled and delayed airline flights have torpedoed plans for hundreds of thousands of flyers since before the Christmas holidays. The ongoing unpredictability haunted spring break travelers and has ruined summer vacations. During the Father’s Day/Juneteenth weekend, airlines cancelled more than 3,000 flights and delayed more than 19,000. And there’s no end in sight, with 500 to 800 flights getting cancelled on days during the last week.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), nearly 55,000 flights, or 5.3 percent of all flights, were cancelled in the first two months of 2022. That’s the highest percentage of cancellations ever recorded for the first two months of a year.
And in the first quarter of 2022, the 10 largest U.S. carriers said they bumped, or involuntarily denied boarding, at a rate of 0.44 per 10,000 passengers, compared with 0.08 in the first quarter of 2021, and 0.32 in the first quarter of 2019.
In response, Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, said:
“The forecast for this July 4 weekend is ominous. As travelers try to navigate air travel this holiday weekend and in the weeks ahead, they should know their rights to a refund under federal law, and understand airlines’ policies on credits and vouchers, which flyers don’t have to accept when the airline cancels the flight.
“In a June 29 letter to the 10 major domestic airlines, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey called for them to ‘prioritize’ passengers by addressing ‘flight schedules now and throughout the summer.’
“The airlines received $50 billion in taxpayer money two years ago so they wouldn’t lay off employees, particularly well-trained pilots, during the pandemic. Instead, the airlines took part of our money and offered lucrative buyouts and retirement packages. And since Americans started flying more often again last fall, we’ve all been dealing with atrociously unreliable air travel.
“The airlines have pointed the finger at weather, COVID variants, space shuttle launches and air traffic controllers. It’s time for the airlines to take their share of responsibility by replenishing their work forces as quickly as possible and taking care of consumers -- whose tax dollars kept them afloat -- in the meantime.
“We realize it can take years to properly train commercial pilots. But the airlines can -- and need to – do a few things immediately to improve their customer service. For one: restructure their schedules so they’re not waiting until the last minute to cancel flights and leaving flyers scrambling. They also should reimburse travelers whose flights are cancelled and need to make alternative travel arrangements. And, they need to cover hotels and meals for people whose flights are significantly delayed.”
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