Hundreds of flights were canceled in the U.S. on the eve of Independence Day

Hundreds of flights were canceled in the U.S. on the eve of Independence Day

U.S. airlines canceled hundreds of flights across the country on the first day of the so-called “long weekend” associated with the July 4 Independence Day celebration.

By Saturday afternoon, about 600 domestic and international flights had been canceled in the U.S., and more than 2,500 more were delayed. The situation was no better Friday, with 587 flights canceled in the U.S. out of 3,060 flights canceled by carriers around the world.

In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the airline industry suffered giant losses due to the mass cancellations of people from flying. Although federal subsidies helped airlines avoid layoffs, tens of thousands of workers left the industry after carriers began incentivizing employees to retire early.

Analysts at consulting firm Third Bridge estimate that U.S. aviation now has about 15 percent fewer employees than before the pandemic, while still having to handle 90 percent of 2019 passenger traffic.

“Frankly, it’s all about irresponsible over-scheduled flight scheduling. Since the pandemic, we’ve been scheduling more flights than the people who are doing them,” Delta Pilots Association union leader Jason Ambrosi told CNN on Saturday.

Third Bridge analyst Peter McNally said the pilot shortage is the most pressing problem across the aviation industry. According to McNally, there is no short-term solution to the problem, and it becomes especially acute during holiday peaks.

Airlines report that they are working to fix the problem by hiring pilots and other personnel, as well as reducing the number of passenger seats by 15 percent.

Aviation industry officials, while acknowledging the pilot shortage problem, point to other factors exacerbating the problem, including stormy weather, an increase in Covid-19 employee infections and a shortage of air traffic controllers at several airports.