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Flights Surge in the U.S. Despite Reduced Routes

Memorial Day weekend kicked off with a return to pre-pandemic travel numbers.

By Amy Durham

travelers with suitcases in an airport concourse with white ceiling
The eastern concourse of Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport CREDIT LaGuardia Gateway Partners

Thursday, May 25, ahead of Memorial Day, reached the highest volume of daily flights in U.S. airports since the onset of the pandemic, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The surge in travelers for the holiday weekend meant a total of 54,684 flights either departed from or arrived at U.S. airports. The TSA screened 2.658 million passengers on Thursday, marking the highest number of passengers screened since November 2019.

However, this surge in travel is accompanied by continued staffing challenges at airlines and airports. In March, the FAA announced a program that allowed for airlines to reduce flights from a few major airports by up to 10%. Shortages of air traffic controllers, airline staffing gaps, and high summer air congestion in heavily traveled areas in the Northeast all contributed to the program’s inception. These route reductions include both less frequency and complete cancellation of routes to several major cities, and they will impact ticketing options for travelers between May 15 and Sept. 15.

a concourse at an airport with an America flag hanging from the ceiling
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport CREDIT sandler482 via Pixabay

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines reduced their flights in March and April, respectively, with many reduced flight times and some cities no longer serviced by the two airline companies at all. This week, American Airlines has announced the cancellation of 10,000 flights in September, a 6% reduction in their routes. In September, a total of ten additional routes will be affected by the American Airlines reduction, including two from Charlotte, two from Dallas, one from Boston, three from Phoenix, and two from Chicago.

To accommodate these reduced flight options over the summer, many airlines have already switched to operating larger planes, offering passengers the ability to make their destination despite limited scheduling choices. The cuts are especially constricting in New York area airports and Ronal Reagan Washington National Airport where air congestion is high and the FAA expressed concerns. If the Memorial Day weekend travel numbers are any indication, the summer airline challenges are likely to continue.