US air travel is suffering a ‘breakdown’ and the ‘job is not sustainable’ for overstretched staff, a flight attendant union rep warns as American travelers are hit by another weekend of travel chaos with more than 1,000 cancelations.  

America’s airport nightmares continued on Friday as thunderstorms on the East Coast halted thousands of planes.  

According to FlightAware, which tracks the status of flights around the world, 1,142 flights within, into or out of the United States were called off on Friday, while 3,944 flights were delayed. 

Canceled flights on Saturday were totaled at 657 and had nearly doubled that number on Sunday by 8 p.m. with as many as 912 flights canceled and 6,512 delayed. 

US flight attendant Allie Malis, who is also the government affairs representative at the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, a union representing American Airlines air crew, told CNN Travel her thoughts on the chaos. 

‘There’s some kind of breakdown happening that I believe should be preventable,’ Malis said. 

She described ‘uncomfortable’ situations where crew members, having been delayed on incoming flights, would find themselves sprinting through the airport to make their next flight. 

‘Sometimes the passengers are cheering that you’re arriving because it means their plane’s going to go, or even that they’re upset — they think it’s your fault that the flight has been delayed when you can’t work two flights at once, although I’m sure the airlines wish we could,’ Malis said. 

Many airlines cut back and have operated with a skeleton staff for the better part of the last two years due to the pandemic. But now that travel demand is back, the airline industry is struggling to keep up. 

According to FlightAware, which tracks the status of flights around the world, 1,142 flights within, into or out of the United States were called off on Friday, and 912 as of 8pm Sunday

America's airport nightmares continued this weekend starting with thunderstorms on the East Coast that halted thousands of planes on Friday

America’s airport nightmares continued this weekend starting with thunderstorms on the East Coast that halted thousands of planes on Friday

Southwest Airlines recorded the most canceled flights on Sunday, with 177 flights called off and another 1279 flights delayed

Southwest Airlines recorded the most canceled flights on Sunday, with 177 flights called off and another 1279 flights delayed

‘The lack of staff, delays, cancellations, no baggage — I think it’s a very difficult situation for everybody,’ Germany-based Lufthansa flight attendant Daniel Kassa Mbuambi told CNN Travel.

Mbuambi said the situation has led to strain on the crew, who have been sometimes forced to sleep in the airport while they wait for their next flights which are often operated with minimum staff onboard. 

Malis added that when airlines suggest current issues are due to staff absenteeism, it’s disheartening. 

‘It’s kind of offensive that we’re being blamed for any type of labor shortage or operational mismanagement, because the airlines have failed to adequately plan,’ she adds. 

The veteran flight attendant continued: ‘Flight attendants are being maxed out, working the longest days we’ve had, with the shortest rest periods overnight that we’ve had and that does get you sick, that does lead to exhaustion and fatigue and weakens your immune system.’

Malis added: ‘Why would anyone want to apply to be a flight attendant or any other airline worker when we’re kind of getting worked to the bone?’

Summer air travel is always expected to stretch the system, but Malis hopes this fall could ‘be a great opportunity to reset, to make sure our systems are working properly to handle high volumes of traffic.’

Travelers wait for their flight at Los Angeles International Airport as thousands of flights cancel

Travelers wait for their flight at Los Angeles International Airport as thousands of flights cancel

Travelers aired their frustrations on Twitter, with photos of long lines and hopes of getting to their destination on time. More than 1,000 flights were canceled over the weekend

Travelers aired their frustrations on Twitter, with photos of long lines and hopes of getting to their destination on time. More than 1,000 flights were canceled over the weekend 

One user tweeted about the customer service with American Airlines as they wait for help after their flight was canceled without promise of hotel or food vouchers

One user tweeted about the customer service with American Airlines as they wait for help after their flight was canceled without promise of hotel or food vouchers 

Another traveler tweeted about their Delta flight being canceled three times

Another traveler tweeted about their Delta flight being canceled three times

Travelers wrote about being delayed hours in the airport and again on the plane

Travelers wrote about being delayed hours in the airport and again on the plane 

A traveler in Seattle tweets about being stuck on Sunday as 912 flights are canceled

A traveler in Seattle tweets about being stuck on Sunday as 912 flights are canceled

Malis added that she believes the long-term solution would need to come with revamping the current air travel system. 

‘We, as flight attendants, we’re right there with our passengers, we’re in it with them, we feel their frustrations firsthand, if not even more, because this has happened to us so frequently, since we fly for a living,’ Malis said. 

‘We want to do right by our passengers, we can see these poor people who are just trying to get to where they need to go, we can read their stress, we can see their anxiety and so we really just do want them to get to where they want to go, we want to hopefully say goodbye with a smile.’

The current number of Americans traveling has increased since the height of the pandemic, but remains lower than the pre-covid era. On Wednesday, The US Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.1 million passengers at airports nationwide, about 86 percent from the same day in 2019. 

An apparent aviation expert stepped in and offered their opinion on Twitter, stating that safety is the reason flights are canceled

An apparent aviation expert stepped in and offered their opinion on Twitter, stating that safety is the reason flights are canceled

Flight officials say there's a strain on the crew, who have been forced to sleep in the airport while they wait for their next flights which are often operated with minimum staff onboard. Pictured: Travelers wait at LAX for their flight as many are canceled over the weekend

Flight officials say there’s a strain on the crew, who have been forced to sleep in the airport while they wait for their next flights which are often operated with minimum staff onboard. Pictured: Travelers wait at LAX for their flight as many are canceled over the weekend

A flight attendant’s guide to dealing with summer travel chaos 

 Flight attendant Allie Malis’ provided CNN Travel with top tips for traveling right now:

– Pack your patience: Travelers should leave home expecting some sort of travel disruption.

– Pack your snacks: Come prepared to fuel yourself through any delays. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up as soon as you’re past security so that you have water in case you’re stuck on a flight that’s grounded on the runway. Some flights won’t provide beverage and food service if the weather is bad due to safety reasons, Malis says. 

– Book early morning flights: Earlier flights might be less disrupted, Malis says. ‘Usually the operation is kind of reset in the morning.’ She added that if you get shifted on to a later flight, and you’re at the airport first thing, there should be more options available. Weather-related delays also tend to occur more in the afternoon and evening, Malis adds.

– Leave buffer time: Try and avoid tight connections where you can, Malis advises. If you’re traveling for an important event, like a wedding, try to fly in a day or two in advance.

This weekend, the three major airports in the New York City area and Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D.C., recorded the most cancellations.

Southwest Airlines had the most on Sunday, with 177 flights canceled and another 1279 flights delayed. 

United followed behind with 81 flights canceled and 622 delayed. American Airlines recorded 64 flights canceled and another 931 flights delayed. Delta recorded 53 cancelations and 602 delays. 

Jet Blue had the least amount of disruption on Sunday with just 14 flights canceled and 443 delays. 

The continued chaos this weekend comes as American Airlines announced it would be cutting two percent of flights from its schedule in September and October, CNN reported. 

According to the airline, the cuts were ‘proactive adjustments’ in order to accommodate the resources it currently has available and build a ‘buffer’ into the remainder of its summer schedule. 

The airline says it will reach out to passengers directly with ‘alternative travel options’ and provide full refunds to those who reject the new flight arrangements.

The airline also announced it will be cutting service to four smaller cities starting on September 7. They said they will no longer be flying to Islip and Ithaca in New York, Toledo, Ohio or Dubuque, Iowa. 

American Airlines spokesperson Brian Metham said the changes were due to a ‘lack of regional pilots.’ 

‘Like many network carriers, we have reduced our regional flying in recent months in response to the regional pilot shortage,’ he said. 

The flight scrambles come as the US Department of Transportation proposed a new rule that would expand the circumstances when airlines must offer refunds. 

Currently, passengers are only entitled to refunds if an airline has ‘made a significant schedule change or significantly delays a flight and the travelers chooses not to board the flight. 

The DOT does not define what ‘significant’ means in this context, but the new proposal would change that. 

Under the new rule, significant changes would be defined as changes that affect departure or arrival times by three hours or more in domestic flights and six hours or more for international flights. 

It also includes if changes are made to the airport the flight is arriving at or departing from, as well as changes to the number of connections and if someone experiences a big downgrade in their travel experience. 

‘This new proposed rule would protect the rights of travelers and help ensure they get the timely refunds they deserve from the airlines,’ Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. 

Travel bounced back faster than expected – to about 88 percent of pre-pandemic levels in July – and airlines weren’t able to increase staffing fast enough. They have been cutting back on schedules in an attempt to make remaining flights more reliable.

Airlines flying in the U.S. had a bad June, canceling more than 21,000 flights or 2.7 percent, up from 1.8 percent in June 2019, before airlines pushed workers to quit during the pandemic. The airlines did better in July, however, canceling about 14,000 flights, or 1.8 percent. Delays have been more persistent – above 23 percent, in both June and July.

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