The fourth of July holiday weekend is booming with airport crowds smashing the numbers seen in 2019 ahead of the pandemic.
Travelers appeared to have experienced fewer delays and canceled flights early Friday than earlier this week.
The Transportation Security Administration on Thursday selected more than 2.4 million passengers at airport checkpoints, 17% more than on the same Friday before July 4, 2019.
“We expect (Friday) to be busy, of course, and then Sunday will be very busy,” TSA administrator David Pekoske told NBC’s “Today” program.
AAA predicts that nearly 48 million people will travel at least 50 miles or more from home over the weekend, slightly less than in 2019. AAA says car travel will set a record even with the national average price for gasoline moving close to $ 5.
Recreational travel has returned this year, compensating for the weakness in business travel and international flying. Yet the total number of people flying did not recover to pre-pandemic levels. TSA selected 11% fewer people in June than in the same month of 2019.
Thursday was the 11th time since the pandemic began that TSA has checked more people than it did on the same day in 2019, and only the second time since February.
Airlines can almost certainly carry more passengers if they have enough staff.
Many U.S. airlines have cut their summer schedules after bad weather, air traffic delays and a lack of enough employees caused widespread cancellations over Memorial Day weekend.
Airline executives blame their flight problems on the Federal Aviation Administration, which manages the country’s air traffic control system, but Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg disputes that allegation.
By late Friday morning on the East Coast, airlines had canceled about 200 U.S. flights and another 1,400 were delayed. From June 22 to Wednesday, at least 600 flights were canceled, and between 4,000 and 7,000 were delayed per day, according to the tracking service FlightAware.