In the beginning, there were record pre-pandemic hordes hoping to fly during the Independence Day period. Then came the ferocious rainstorms around the East. Then came United's Newark meltdown. And then came more storms, more cancellations, more delays and more chaos. Throw in strikes, airport ground issues, frequent Amtrak delays, hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and devastating wildfires and we have one of the worst travel periods in recent memory. Here is how we're covering the big problems in real time. Read up from the bottom for context.
9/17/23, 9PM ET, SUNDAY
END OF THE CHAPTER
There are still a few days of summer remaining, but let's consider this the official end of an ignominious chapter of travel. Let's agree that whatever happens next is a problem of the autumn travel season. Meanwhile, here are a few things worth knowing about the end of this awful summer:
+ DIY HOTELKEEPING ...
What happens when travelers show up at a Nashville hotel and there is literally no one to help them? They check themselves in--and even serve the complimentary breakfast the next morning. The Daily Dot has the astounding details
of once upon a time at a LaQuinta Inn.
+ SKY HARBOR SWELTERS ...
It hit 112 degrees at Phoenix/Sky Harbor last Sunday, breaking a 33-year-old record. It was also the 55th day above 110 degrees this year. The Arizona Republic
has those steamy details
+ TOMORROW IS ANOTHER STRIKE ...
Local and national Italian transport unions have called a series of coordinated strikes for Monday local time. Airports and flights will be hobbled, the national railway network will be disrupted and local mass-transit systems will shut down for hours at a time.
TROUBLE FROM A TO Z(AIRE) ...
Brussels Airlines Flight 358 scheduled to fly from Kinshasa, Zaire, to Brussels was cancelled for two consecutive days this weekend. The result? Some outraged passengers stormed the aircraft, a 13-year-old Airbus A330 that suffered a series of technical problems. Here's video
of the incident.
+ DEATH VALLEY DAYS ...
Tropical Storm Hilary last month wreaked havoc on Death Valley National Park and the park may be closed for months. However, the landscape may never be the same. The Los Angeles Times
explains the heartbreaking reality.
+ ANOTHER AIRPORT RAINY DAY ...
A month's worth of rain fell in just a few hours today on Exeter Airport in Devon, England. The airport was forced to close and stranded passengers slogged through ankle-deep water in the terminal.
+ LIBYA'S AGONY ...
According to a UN report released Saturday, the death toll in Libya following Storm Daniel has risen to at least 11,300. Another 10,000 are missing. The storm, which caused death and destruction last week in Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, collapsed two dams in Libya. That caused massive flooding and washed hundreds of victims out to sea. Their bodies have been washing up on the country's beaches.
+ AND IN THE END ...
Airlines have created a new crisis: sweltering aircraft that sicken passengers and crew and raise the collective eyebrows of federal regulations. What, if anything, will come of this summer's newest issue remains to be seen. Politico.com has an extensive backgrounder
9/16/23, 11:45AM ET, SATURDAY
IN LIKE A LION, OUT LIKE A LION
Summer came in like a nasty, roaring lion and it's going out like a nasty, roaring lion--at least in northern New England and Maritime Canada.
Even though it is still about 100 miles south-southeast of Eastport, Maine, the remnants of Hurricane Lee, now classified as a "post-tropical cyclone," are playing havoc with flying around the region.
Among the larger airports, Boston/Logan has already cancelled 24% of its flights today. Fifty-five percent of flights at Halifax have been dumped. Portland (PWM) has lost about 35% of its schedule. Things are much worse at the area's smaller airports. All flights have been canceled at Bar Harbor (BHB), Provincetown (PVC), Augusta (AUG) and Knox County (fka Rockland). Virtually all flights to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are gone, as well as 55% of the flights at Barnstable and 66% at Bangor.
Today's ferries to/from Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard have been severely impacted. If they run, it is on an irregular schedule. Check here
for more details.
As for Lee itself, it is still packing maximum sustained winds nearing 75mph. The storm, about 150 miles west-southwest of Halifax, remains dangerous enough that Environment Canada
has upgraded the Tropical Storm Watch to a Tropical Storm Warning for Prince Edward Island, Magdalen Islands and portions of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Landfall is expected later today.
And remember, the region has already endured heavy rains in recent days. That's especially true in Massachusetts, where catastrophic flooding has hit several cities. See here
One other note: Amtrak trains between Baltimore and Washington are experiencing heavy delays today. Unable to blame unseasonably warm summer weather--Amtrak's transparently summer stupid dodge given the unseasonably cool weather in the Northeast this season--Amtrak is now blaming signal issues for today's disruptions.
9/11/23, 12:30AM ET, MONDAY
A BAD, BAD DAY TO FLY
As of 11:30pm ET on Sunday, more than 1,550 flights have been cancelled nationwide and more than 6,600 delayed. Cancellations were worst in the East, led by New York/LaGuardia (31%), JFK (18%) and Newark (20%). Washington/National was awful at a 23% cancellation rate, followed by Boston/Logan (15%), Philadelphia (10%) and Baltimore-Washington (11%). As I warned in my URGENT dispatch, flying will be dicey early this week as the storms continue and airlines increasingly have planes and crews out of position. Please plan accordingly.
9/10/23, 4PM ET, SUNDAY
IT'S GETTING WORSE OUT THERE.
I warned yesterday that we were headed for one of the worst weekends of flying this summer and, sadly, today is proving me correct. And the outlook for early next week is grim indeed.
More flights nationwide already have been cancelled today (1,474 at 3:30pm, says FlightAware.com) than all of yesterday (1,361). We also seem on track to exceed yesterday's delay total of 5,600.
The culprits today are the predictable East Coast airports: New York/LaGuardia (a third cancelled, a third more delayed), New York/Kennedy (17% cancelled, 20% more delayed) and Newark (20% dumped, 20% more delayed). Washington/National is a mess, too, with more than 20% of flights there cancelled and heavy delays. Conditions are also awful at Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington. Comparatively speaking, Washington/Dulles is doing better, but cancellations are still higher than you'd want for such a key hub.
Worse, storms are projected through tomorrow and into Tuesday morning. There'll be virtually no chance for airlines to reset until perhaps Wednesday. There is a wild card out there, too. Hurricane Lee, with maximum sustained winds of 110mph and currently located near the Leeward Islands, is predicted
to spin off into the North Atlantic. But any change of direction back toward land could create a mess of problems for travel later this week.
WHY IT WILL GET EVEN WORSE ...
With so many successive days of weather problems, airlines won't have much chance to reset their networks. There will be an increasing number of cancellations in the days ahead because flight crews and aircraft are out of position. Even as the weather improves, there will be residual cancellations due to positioning issues.
THE THINNEST SILVER LINING? ...
Loads are down since the summer peaks, so there are a few more seats available for reacccommendation. But that's thin gruel indeed with so many flyers dealing with cancelled flights and missed connections. (Example: The TSA said 2.72 million people passed through airport checkpoints on September 1. It was "just" 2.26 million on Thursday.)
SOLUTIONS & WORKAROUNDS? ...
Not many, obviously, and I can only reiterate the advice I offered in late June when this mess began:
+ FLY NONSTOP. Avoid connections through East Coast airports. Delays and cancellations cascade throughout the system, of course, but this remains primarily an East Coast issue. You'll do better flying through Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and even Atlanta or Detroit. Of course, if your destination is an East Coast city or you're based in the East, your proverbial goose is cooked.
+ HAVE A PLAN B, EVEN A PLAN C. Know your alternate flight options and airport-hotel choices before you go. Customer-facing airport employees at the airports are swamped and overworked. They don't have time to plow through all the alternative arrangements. Help them help you by plotting your options before a crisis hits. And if all else fails and you're stuck at the airport, know what hotels are available to you before
+ KEEP THEM CURRENT. Make sure your carrier has accurate E-mail, mobile phone and text info so it can reach you with any automated reaccommodations. The higher your frequent flyer status, the better your chance that airlines have automatically rebooked you. Don't miss out because you missed a text or E-mail.
+ DON'T CHECK BAGS. Mishandled luggage rates skyrocket as flights are delayed and cancelled. Carrying on is always
the best option, but more so now as the airlines deal with so many problems.
+ DON'T RELY ON THE KINDNESS OF AIRLINES. Don't wait for the airlines to provide meal or lodging options if your flight is cancelled or heavily delayed. The voucher lines at airports are and will be incredibly long. Book your own hotels and buy your own meals. Argue with the airlines about your reimbursement later. Keep your receipts for documentation.
Naturally, defer as much flying as you can in the week ahead. Monday, Tuesday and even Wednesday will be dicey. Mostly, though, pack plenty of patience, stock up on energy-rich snacks and bring a double portion of forbearance. It's going to be rough out there.
9/9/23, 11:15PM ET, SATURDAY
A FLOOD OF BAD TRAVEL NEWS
If you thought Labor Day marked the end of our summer travel misery, think again. This is shaping up as one of the worst flying weekends of the season. And once again it is heavy storms along the East Coast doing the most damage.
The post-Labor Day week started off well enough. Delays were comparatively modest, cancellations a non-factor: fewer than 150 on Tuesday and Wednesday combined. But Thursday was troublesome (589 cancellations around the nation) and yesterday grim as about 1,150 flights were scrubbed nationwide.
Today has been a horror show: FlightAware.com has registered more than 1,300 cancellations as of 11pm ET. The commuter carriers have taken the biggest hit: Republic, which flies for all three majors, washed away more than a third of its schedule. GoJet, which operates solely for United Airlines, has dumped 19% of its flights. And Endeavor, wholly owned by Delta Air Lines, has cancelled 13% of its slate today.
Delays and cancellation have plagued all the major airports in the Northeast: New York/Kennedy lost 12% of its slate of flights and about a third of the rest have been delayed. That is a slew of very unhappy international flyers. Just a few forehand smashes from where Coco Gauff won the U.S. Open today, New York/LaGuardia whiffed on 20% of its departures and 30% of the rest were delayed. Newark was the worst of the New York area airports with 25% of flights cancelled and more than 30% of the rest delayed.
Flight woes have hardly been limited to the New York Metro region. Boston/Logan, Philadelphia, Baltimore/Washington, Washington/National and Washington/Dulles all registered double-digit percent cancellations and suffered heavy delays. Charlotte, the American hub, had few cancellations, but about a third of its flights were delayed--and there were monstrous lines of misconnected flyers looking for help from overworked, understaffed employees at ticket counters and customer-service desks. Lines were also long at Chicago/O'Hare and pretty much everywhere.
Of course, these are literally "first-world problems." It was much worse globally:
endured a 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Friday evening. The death toll has surpassed 2,000. The epicenter was in the Atlas Mountains not far from Marrakech. It was the strongest quake to hit the region in more than 120 years. Marrakech’s medina (old town) and city walls, both major tourist attractions, were heavily damaged, the ancient structures unable to withstand the violent tremors. The 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque, known as the "roof of Marrakesh" thanks to its 225-foot-high minaret, was damaged, too.
+ HONG KONG
recorded more than six inches of rain in one hour this weekend, flooding streets, submerging cars, swamping the Cross-Harbor Tunnel and inundating many of the city's subway stations. At one point, more than 16 inches of rain fell in 12 hours on the low-lying Kowloon Peninsula across the Harbor from Hong Kong Island. The downpour was caused by the remnants of Typhoon Haikui.
, just across the Chinese border from Hong Kong, was similarly hit. The tech hub of nearly 18 million people received 18 inches of rain in about 12 hours, Chinese government officials said. Schools, businesses and major rail services were closed as residents slogged through knee-deep rivers where major thoroughfares had been.
has been pounded by relentless rain since Tuesday and at least 10 people are reported dead. The rainstorms burst dams, washed away roads and flooded the Thessaly Plain, home to a quarter of Greece's agricultural production. Rivers of mud reached the rooftops of houses in several villages in the central part of the country. Just last month, of course, Greece was ravaged by wildfires that burned thousands of acres of forests.
says that at least four people died this week due to rainstorms and heavy flooding. At the Black Sea tourist resort on Arapya beach, cars and RVs were washed away by torrential rain and strong winds.
was hit by the same storm, named Daniel, that struck neighboring Greece and Bulgaria. At least two people died in Istanbul, where rain inundated homes and workplaces in some areas. A flash flood at a campsite in northwestern Turkey near the border with Bulgaria killed at least five people.
9/3/23, 8:30PM ET, SUNDAY
A DAY WE'LL ALWAYS REMEMBER
Like all of us frequent travelers, Papa was a rolling stone and wherever he laid his hat was his home. We especially remember this on the third of September because a) The Temptations sang about it
; and b) Labor Day Weekend flying statistics bear it out. Earlier in the week, the TSA predicted a record-setting weekend with Friday being the heaviest flying day at 2.7 million people passing through airports. In fact, Friday's number came in at 2,727,888, nearly 250,000 more than a similar day last year. Saturday was busy, too, with 2,082,990 people passing through the airport, nearly 180,000 above last year. The good news? The airlines largely held up. Cancellations Friday in the U.S. skies (291) were modest and delays (6,357) slightly below average for this summer. Saturday fared even better: just 137 cancellations and only 3,082 delays. Today is shaping up great, too. As of 8pm ET FlightAware.com says there have been fewer than 100 cancellations and about 2,500 delays. In other words, never underestimate the power of Motown to make a busy travel period seem lyrical. Here's what else happened this weekend:
+ FLIGHT TO NOWHERE ...
American Airlines Flight 728 from Philadelphia to London/Heathrow diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, on Thursday night. That's when the bad news started. The 11pm ET departure initially diverted for a passenger's medical emergency, but then the flight crew timed out after landing in Gander. That meant 10 hours essentially sitting at a cold, mostly closed airport. When the relief crew finally arrived, they flew the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner back to Philadelphia, dumping passengers where they started after more than 20 hours of travel time.
+ BA'S DAY OF DIVERSIONS ...
At least three British Airways flights from London on Saturday departed and then unceremoniously returned to Heathrow for a variety of technical issues. BA Flight 263 scheduled to Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, made it as far as Croatia before turning around. BA Flight 586 to Bastia, Corsica, made it as far as Switzerland before returning to London. BA Flight 203 to Boston lasted only a few minutes on its original course before returning to base.
+ RIDE AROUND THE ROCKS ...
Direct service on the Paris-Turin-Milan train route operated by the French and Italian railroads will be disrupted for at least two months. The reason? Landslides earlier this week did heavy damage to key tracks in France. One tiny silver lining? Officials have called off plans to close Mont Blanc Tunnel, the key road route between the two nations. Renovations were scheduled to start tomorrow.
+ HOT, HOT, HOT ...
India, Japan and Australia have all smashed average temperature records this summer. That shouldn't surprise you if you've been following the news about wave after wave of heat waves. Agence France-Presse has details
+ TAIWAN TRAUMA ...
The first typhoon in four years made landfall on Taiwan today in the lesser-populated eastern part of the island. Although damage was comparatively small from Typhoon Haikui, air travel in and around Taiwan was disrupted. More than half the flights at Taipei Songshan (TSA) were cancelled yesterday; about a third were dumped today. Things were less dire at Taipei International (TPE). Cancellations at domestic airports on the island dumped more than half their flights, however.
9/3/23, 8PM ET, SUNDAY
BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK
I admit I've never really understood what the annual Burning Man festival was all about. All I knew was thousands of well-to-do travelers and celebrities gathered in a remote part of Nevada for days at a time. But what Burning Man is--tens of thousands of people camping out in nature with no services like shops, Internet or cell service--has this year run smack into Mother Nature. Heavy rains have turned the Burning Man site and Black Rock City into a swamp. There's mud everywhere and roads and Black Rock Airport have been closed. About 70,000 attendees have been told to shelter in place, conserve food, water and fuel and prepare to wait days for rescue. Gates to the site have been closed, too, and the only way out is a long (about six miles) hike through the muck and over daunting mountain trails. CNN has been running updates on conditions
and the latest development. And here's where I remind you of a seminal quote from dedicated city dweller and writer Fran Lebowitz: Some people want to go back to nature. I want to go back to the hotel
8/31/23, 8PM ET, THURSDAY
HURRICANES & ROCK SLIDES & BEES, OH MY!
Hurricane Idalia hit the Big Bend area of Florida's Gulf Coast yesterday as a Category 3 storm and raced across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. It is now downgraded to a post-tropical storm in the Atlantic. Total damage is still being assessed. The storm mostly crossed sparsely populated rural areas, which may limit damage, but will take much longer to categorize. As predicted, the most troublesome aspect of Idalia was storm surge washing across low-lying areas.
The good news? Aviation has mostly snapped back. All the key airports in Florida that closed before or during the storm have reopened. Delays and cancellations today are minimal although 14% of flights at Charleston International (CHS) in South Carolina cancelled.
Yesterday was more problematic, of course. Most flights were dumped at Tampa (TPA), which closed at midnight and opened only to arriving flights yesterday evening. Two-thirds of the flights at Jacksonville (JAX) and Sarasota (SRQ) were washed away. About 40% of the schedules were dumped in Gainesville and Tallahassee, Florida; Savannah (SAV), Georgia, and Hilton Head (HXD), South Carolina. A third of flights at Southwest Florida International (RSW) in Fort Myers were cancelled.
My best advice going forward: Avoid Northern Florida and coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas this weekend. Clean-up and damage assessment is ongoing. Unless the travel is crucial, later next week is the first time you should consider entering the region. Meanwhile, here's what else happened:
+ A ONE-DAY SLOWDOWN ...
The TSA says that it screened 1,879,838 people at U.S. airports on Tuesday, the first day since May 2 that fewer than two million flyers were on the road. The reasons for the slowdown are explainable: Family trips are ending as some kids went back to school and there were heavy cancellations in front of Hurricane Idalia. The decline was a one-day blip, however, as screening numbers reached 2,005,559 yesterday and we're entering the Labor Day weekend travel crunch. For the record, the TSA says it has screened 227.5 million flyers since the Memorial Day weekend, an average of 2.5 million people a day.
+ SPEAKING OF LABOR DAY ...
The TSA says it expects to screen more than 14 million people over the Labor Day weekend, which it defines as September 1 through September 6. Tomorrow is likely to be the busiest day and the TSA predicts more than 2.7 million flyers passing through checkpoints.
+ TURBULENT TIMES ...
A Delta Air Lines flight from Milan Tuesday hit severe turbulence about 40 miles from Atlanta/Hartsfield. About a dozen passengers and crew members were hospitalized. The Airbus A350, operating as Delta Flight 175, was carrying 151 passengers and a crew of 14, the airline says. It's been a tough summer for Delta's Milan flights. In late July, a Delta flight from Milan to New York/JFK diverted to Rome after flying through a hailstorm. The plane was damaged and out of service for weeks.
+ THE BUZZ IN TORONTO ...
Stretches of Guelph Line, an important road west of Toronto, were inundated with five million bees yesterday when crates of the insects fell off a transport truck. Police urged cars to keep their windows closed and told pedestrians to avoid the area. The Associated Press has the details
+ GUESS YOU GOTTA FLY ...
Ground transportation between France and Italy is scrambled due to rock and landslides. Many trains between the two countries operated by French rail service SNCF and Trenitalia have been cancelled due to the rock slide, which has stopped travel between Modane and Chambéry stations in France. That virtually eliminates service on the Chambéry-Turin line. Landslides caused by heavy rains have intermittently closed the Frejus tunnel, a primary road links between the two countries.
8/29/23, 8PM ET, TUESDAY
WAITING FOR IDALIA
Here's our waiting-for-Idalia update. Several airports on Florida's West Coast and Eastern Panhandle are now closed or will do so shortly:
+ Tallahassee (TLH) closes at 11pm ET.
+ Sarasota Bradenton (SRQ) closed at 7pm ET and expects to reopen tomorrow, "pending damage assessment."
+ St. Pete-Clearwater (PIE) closed at 3pm ET and plans to reopen at 3pm tomorrow.
+ Tampa International (TPA) closed at midnight ET and plans to reopen "following a damage assessment."
But several airports--most notably Southwest Florida (RSW) in Fort Myers and the Orlando airports--say they will remain open. Don't expect much service, though. While Orlando may escape the brunt of the storm, there are likely to be heavy cancellations. RSW's decision to remain open seems especially odd. Expect heavy cancellations there since airlines won't want to risk flying aircraft in during a storm.
The storm is now a Category 2 hurricane. As of the 8pm ET update from the National Weather Service, Idalia was 155 miles southwest of Tampa and 245 miles south of Tallahassee. Maximum sustained winds are 105mph.
Idalia is expected to make landfall tomorrow somewhere near Tampa, which hasn't suffered a direct hit in more than 100 years. But, remember, Hurricane Ian hit the Fort Myers area late last September and caused billions of dollars of damages. Sanibel and Captiva islands, which were cut off by Ian, are still picking up the pieces. The storm surge from Idalia is being called life-threatening and unsurvivable.
After landfall in Florida tomorrow morning, Idalia is expected to turn toward the northeast and then east, moving near or along the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas in 36-48 hours.
8/28/23, 9PM ET, MONDAY
A MESS OF TRAVEL RELATED NEWS--AND A BIG PROMO
This is a three-part update covering an unusually rich (if short) promotion from Southwest Airlines, urgent preparations for a hurricane along Florida's Gulf Coast and the Panhandle and chaos caused by today's breakdown of Great Britain's air traffic control system.
SOUTHWEST: ONE ROUNDTRIP EARNS 2-MONTH COMPANION PASS
The Southwest Airlines annual Companion Pass is considered one of the few remaining great deals in travel. Earlier this year the airline offered a promotion offering a short-term pass. But the promotion unleashed today--fly one roundtrip or two one-ways and earn a Companion Pass valid for two months--is much richer. If you can hit the terms--register, book the paid travel by 11:59pm on Wednesday, August 30, and fly by September 30--it is an incredible offer. If you hit the terms, you'll receive a Companion Pass valid for travel between January 8 and March 8, 2024. We can dissect the offer's intent--Southwest clearly needs a short-term goose to its third-quarter traffic numbers and has decided bookings during the weak first quarter are weaker than usual--but who really cares? If you can book and fly during the designated periods, this is an early 2024 bonanza. The registration link and full details are here: https://www.southwest.com/loyalty/myaccount/promotion-detail.html?id=2-4T7TJY27
FLORIDA: WAITING FOR IDALIA
The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting that Storm Idalia will hit Florida's Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a Category 3 event. That has led Tampa International (TPA) to announce that it will close to commercial traffic at midnight and will remain closed until the storm has passed. The airport says it "anticipates reopening Thursday morning." TPA's action underlines how seriously Florida is taking this storm, currently nearing the tip of Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 70mph. That's just short of hurricane status, but the NWS believes warmer-than-normal Gulf waters will strengthen the storm by the time it hits what locals call the "Big Bend" area of the Gulf Coast. Experts are predicting damaging winds and life-threatening storm surges. Various warnings and evacuation notices have been posted from the Keys in the south all the way north to the Panhandle. I urge you to check the county-level summaries of events at https://www.weather.gov. And it should go without saying: Defer travel to Florida this week if you can. Ground conditions throughout the state are likely to be extremely challenging.
BRITAIN: AN AIR TRAFFIC NIGHTMARE
An early-morning breakdown at NATS, Britain's national air traffic control system, created massive cancellations and heavy delays all day. And because the problem also affected flights overflying Great Britain, delays and cancellations were also higher than normal across Europe, too. The problem was compounded by the fact today was the last summer bank holiday in Britain, one of the busiest travel periods of the season. Performance was brutal today: About 20% of flights were cancelled at three London airports: Heathrow, Gatwick and City; and at Edinburgh and Bristol. Around 15% of flights at Manchester, Glasgow and London/Luton were dumped. NATS says the fault was corrected about midday local time, but warned that it might take several days for travel to return to normal. And "normal" apparently is the 55-60% on-time rate prevailing on UK flights this summer.
8/27/23, 10PM ET, SUNDAY
A GOOD WEEK RUINED ...
Today has been a tough day on the road with thunderstorms leading to ground stops at Dallas/Fort Worth, Tampa International, Charlotte/Douglas and Denver International. Meanwhile, there was a ground stop at Chicago/O'Hare when a service vehicle crashed into an aircraft at the gate. And Boston/Logan was briefly closed to traffic when an unauthorized aircraft entered the airport's air space. There have been about 5,500 delays and more than 200 cancellations nationwide as of 9:45pm, according to FlightAware.com. That ends a comparatively tranquil week on the road. (There were just 100 cancellations yesterday and fewer than 100 on Wednesday, for example.) There were fewer than 3.700 delays nationwide yesterday, one of the best flying days of this cursed summer. Here are this week's other developments:
Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday for 33 counties along Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle as two powerful storms move toward Florida. Tropical Storm Idalia is currently near the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Franklin is in the Atlantic, but forecasters expect it to move away early in the week. Idalia, however, is expected to gather strength as it approaches the Gulf Coast of Florida because Gulf waters are unusually warm and will feed the storm. The system may begin affecting the Gulf Coast and the Panhandle as early as late Tuesday.
+ DETROIT/METRO AIRPORT
Heavy rains early Thursday morning caused flooding and chaos on roads in and around DTW. The rains made the main road to the McNamara Terminal impassable. It took until 4pm before ground access to the terminal was fully restored. Northbound and southbound Dingell Drive tunnels were also reopened.
Seventeen Louisiana parishes (counties) have declared states of emergency in the face of serious wildfires ravaging the state. "There’s nobody alive who’s seen conditions this dangerous,” Governor John Bel Edwards said Saturday afternoon.
Mount Parnitha National Park, described as "the lungs of Athens," is burning as wildfires continue to ravage Greece. This 300-square-mile park is filled with verdant forests and ancient archeological sites.
+ WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA
Thousands of passengers were stranded in Namibia last weekend due to an oddball commercial dispute at Windhoek, the African nation’s main airport. Without warning, the airport authority fired and evicted Menzies, the ground-service company that handles commercial aircraft using WDH. Simon Calder, travel reporter for Britain's Independent
newspaper, has details
8/27/23, 8PM ET, SUNDAY
THE LABOR DAY OUTLOOK? VERY, VERY BUSY
It could be a very rough Labor Day weekend as all indicators point to a very busy travel period. United Airlines expects about 2.8 million passengers between Thursday (August 31) and Tuesday, September 5. Traffic is expected to surpass pre-pandemic highs. United says demand is up 9% on Thursday and 13% on the Tuesday after Labor Day. Most notable: United says demand for international travel is up 29% compared to last year and 35% versus 2019, the last full summer before Covid struck. Meanwhile, American Airlines says it expects to
host 3.5 million flyers during that same August 31-September 5 period. It expects Thursday and Friday to be the busiest days of the weekend. The AAA says things will be plenty busy on the roads, too, as gasoline prices are roughly equivalent to last year. It even predicts the best and worst times to drive between Wednesday and Labor Day and even has some thoughts about the busiest destinations. AAA's ideas are laid out here
8/22/23, 11:30PM ET, TUESDAY
FIRE AND RAIN
Tonight's report is basically a rewrite of James Taylor. You know, fire and rain, sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.
About 850 people are still missing a week after the wildfires that consumed most of Lahaina, the picturesque city of around 13,000 in West Maui. The confirmed death toll has reached at least 115. Officials continue to urge visitors to avoid the nearby resort communities of Ka'anapali, Kapalua and Napili to reduce the strain on emergency supplies, infrastructure and transportation.
San Diego International Airport recorded 1.06 inches of rain during Tropical Storm Hilary. Average rainfall at SAN is 0.01 inches during the entire month of August. However, that was considered good news since San Diego County dodged the worst effects of Tropical Storm Hilary. Unfortunately, the airlines didn't expect that. More flights by percentage were cancelled at SAN--about 38% on Sunday and 12% on Monday--than any other airport in California.
+ SWEET DREAMS:
Maui and Hawaii travel officials have sounded the all-clear for travel on other parts of the island. That includes the popular resort communities of Kihei, Wailea and Makena. All were untouched by the wildfires. And, boy, Maui can use your tourist dollars just now.
+ FLYING MACHINES IN PIECES ON THE GROUND:
A 15-year-old Boeing 737-800 flown by Alaska Airlines experienced an exceptionally hard landing Sunday at John Wayne/Orange County Airport. Flight AS1288 from Seattle came to a stop on an SNA taxiway. No one was injured, but the aircraft was heavily damaged when the landing gear punctured the wing. The port engine may have made contact with the ground.
Thousands of people were evacuated today from an outer district of Athens as wildfires neared the Greek capital. More than 60 new fires have erupted in Greece in the past 24 hours. About 10,000 acres burned between Friday and Monday. Worse, 18 people were found dead today in a forest near the Turkish border. Police authorities believe the victims are migrants since no locals reported anyone missing.
There were some astounding rainfall totals at Southern California airports in the wake of Tropical Storm Hilary. Slightly more than 1.25 inches fell at LAX on Sunday. No more than a trace had ever fallen on August 20 in the past. (The two-day total at LAX was 2.54 inches.) Long Beach Airport received 1.56 inches compared to a trace in the past. At Bob Hope/Burbank, it was 1.61 inches compared to the previous record of .01 inches in 1983.
Wildfires in Eastern Washington State near Spokane are blamed for the death of two people. About 53 miles of the state have burned this year. Air quality around Spokane was the worst in the country on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
Speaking of music, it turns out Albert Hammond was wrong when he suggested it never rains in Southern California. About 4.8 inches fell in Beverly Hills while downtown Los Angeles received just shy of 3 inches. It was more than 3.5 inches in Santa Monica and 4.7 inches in Topanga. Nearly 4 inches fell in Agoura Hills and 6.46 inches fell in Saugus in the Santa Clarita Valley. The highest total from Friday through Monday was 11.74 inches at 8,600 feet on Mount San Jacinto in Riverside County.
8/20/23, 11:15PM ET, SUNDAY
SOUTHWEST CANCELLED MORE THAN 700 FLIGHTS TODAY
Today's big flying loser: Southwest Airline flyers. Of the 1,053 flights cancelled nationwide today, 714 were Southwest trips, according to FlightAware.com. That's understandable. Southwest dominates intra-California travel and the hectic California Corridor between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The 714 cancellations represent 17% of the carrier's nationwide schedule today. Be prepared for heavy cancellations tomorrow, too. About a quarter of Monday flights at Ontario Airport in California's Inland Empire have been scrubbed. San Diego International has already dropped about 14% of its Monday schedule.
8/20/23, 11PM ET, SUNDAY
HILARY IS MOVING FAST AND DROPPING PLENTY OF RAIN
Hilary, now a tropical storm with winds about 45mph, is lashing Southern California. First reports suggest mud has spilled onto some highways, water is overwhelming drainage systems and tree branches have fallen in places from San Diego to Los Angeles. And it's still raining. According to figures compiled by the national
Weather Prediction Center
as of 11pm ET, about 8.5 inches of rainfall has already been measured at 8,616 feet on Mount San Jacinto. The highest rain total so far at sea level is 6.15 inches in Leona Valley in Los Angeles County. Lots more rain is in the forecast and it remains to be seen how the region holds up. One bit of good news: Hilary is a fast-moving storm, tracking north-northwest at 28mph. The faster the storm moves, the less rain any one particular place receives. For the record: Hilary made landfall as a Category 1 storm around 11am PT about 150 miles south of Ensenada, Mexico.
8/20/23, 9PM ET, SUNDAY
LAS VEGAS THINKS IT'S DRAWN AN INSIDE STRAIGHT
At least at this hour, Las Vegas thinks it has drawn an inside straight against Tropical Storm Hilary. While it has been raining steadily all day--and several JoeSentMe members report standing water on streets and in parking lots--Vegas weather authorities believe they are on the "dry" side of the storm. There's even hope now that Hilary won't match the 24-hour record of 2.59 inches of rain dumped on the city on August 20-21, 1957. Stay tuned and never bet on pulling an inside straight.
8/20/23, 6:30PM ET, SUNDAY
IT'S THE SYFY CHANNEL'S WORLD. WE'RE JUST LIVING IN IT ...
Now I understand: We're all living in a bad made-for-SyFy movie. Just after 5:30pm ET, an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale was recorded about seven kilometers southeast of Ojai in Ventura County, one of the Southern California communities now under a Tropical Storm warning. Social-media wags are already dubbing it a "hurriquake," a nod to the series of SyFy Channel movies called Sharknado
. Geological experts insist the quake, which has been followed by around two dozen aftershocks, is in no way related to Tropical Storm Hilary, which is battering the region with heavy rains. Of course, that's what the experts always say in those Sharknado
8/20/23, 11AM ET, SUNDAY
MAYBE IT'LL BE LOCUSTS IN SEPTEMBER ...
I mentioned several weeks ago that I'd begun researching locusts because it was about the only thing we hadn't seen this summer of our travel discontent. But I forgot exploding Segways. While we were watching developments out West last evening, a Segway belonging to Washington/Dulles Airport police force spontaneously exploded. Two officers were injured when the personal-mobility device burst into flames in the airport's main terminal. Passengers were evacuated during the incident, which began about 7:30pm ET, according to airport statements. Firefighters quenched the blaze and the "all clear" was sounded around 9pm. Now it's back to locust research ...
8/20/23, 10AM ET, SUNDAY
THIS IS, UM, COOL ...
Noted: For the first time in more than two months, Phoenix failed to reach triple-digit temperatures. On Saturday, the high temperature at Phoenix/Sky Harbor topped out at 95 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, the last time the high temperature in Phoenix failed to reach triple digits was on June 13. That's 67 days ago.
8/20/23, 8AM ET, SUNDAY
CANCELLATIONS MOUNT BEFORE HILARY ARRIVES
Hurricane Hilary has been downgraded to a Category One storm with maximum sustained winds of 80mph, down from 130mph on Friday. But the system, which is expected to hit Southern California as a Tropical Storm later today, is already playing havoc with travel, transportation and daily life.
A point-by-point update is below, but the major advice remains the same: Don't travel to the region if you can avoid it and, if you're already in residence or visiting, take the appropriate protective measures. A Tropical Storm
warning is in effect from the Mexico/California border up to Point Mugu. This is a region that hasn't experienced a tropical storm in more than 80 years. The situation will be--no pun intended--extremely fluid in the next 24-48 hours.
As of 7am ET, most airports in Southern California have reported massive cancellations ahead of the storm's expected arrival later today:
+ SAN DIEGO: 40% of schedule cancelled
+ JOHN WAYNE/ORANGE COUNTY: 22% cancelled
+ BURBANK: 37% cancelled
+ ONTARIO: 35% cancelled
+ LONG BEACH: 40% cancelled
+ PALM SPRINGS: 40% cancelled
Airports in Nevada and Arizona are already reporting heavy cancellations, too:
+ LAS VEGAS INTERNATIONAL: 20% cancelled
+ PHOENIX/SKY HARBOR: 10% cancelled
+ RENO: 10% cancelled
With so many flights cancelled in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona, airports in Northern California are also seeing heavy disruptions as regional service is dropped. For example: 20% of the scheduled flights in Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland have already been dumped.
All airlines serving the airports in the region have issued travel waivers allowing you to cancel or reschedule without penalty for the next few days. Do the smart thing and reschedule.
AMTRAK & COMMUTER RAIL
Amtrak has cancelled many of its popular Pacific Surfliner trains between Los Angeles and San Diego. Get the latest update here
. Metrolink, which offers local rail service in the region, is also expecting closures. See the latest details here
. The Los Angeles Metro has already announced the closure of some escalators at several major stations. Expect service disruptions, too. The latest details are here
Los Angeles County officials have urged residents and visitors on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles to leave. Ferries were packed late in the day Saturday and officials of the companies serving the island said more boats would operate today before the storm arrives.
There are already scattered closures through the Southern California area, especially those connecting the inland desert communities with the larger population centers. Expect more closures as the storm reaches the area. Given that upwards of 10 inches of rainfall is expected in the next 24 hours, many freeways, highways and surface streets could be swamped without warning. Since there hasn't been a tropical storm in the region since 1939, no one really knows what will happen. Assume the worst.
It's impossible to list everything that has already closed, but here is a representative list: Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks campgrounds; Lake Mead National Recreation Area; all California state beaches; all San Diego beaches, parks and reservoirs; and Cabrillo National Monument. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy says it has moved some vessels out of San Diego Bay. Many major sporting events scheduled for today have been cancelled or rescheduled. Disneyland and related attractions will close early today.
Although full details remain sketchy and the storm hasn't even made landfall yet, Mexican officials are sharing photos and video of flash flooding in some parts of the peninsula. At least one death already has been recorded. The worst-hit area may be the coastal town of Santa Rosalia, on the eastern side of the peninsula. Stay tuned for further distressing updates, however.
8/20/23, 7:45AM ET, SUNDAY
Evacuations continued in Yellowknife, the capital of Canada's Northwest Territories, and the Kelowna area in British Columbia. The wildfires continue to burn, but overnight weather was better. A notable casualty: the Lake Okanagan Resort, popular with visitors from around the world. Meanwhile, an evacuation was ordered for some communities outside Spokane, Washington. Sections of the I-90 highway have been closed, too.
8/18/23, 9PM ET, FRIDAY
THE WORLD TURNS UPSIDE DOWN--AGAIN
Just when you thought you've seen it all this horrible travel summer, new nightmares continue to crop up. Please buckle up because this is going to be a long and important update.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROPICAL STORM WATCH
There hasn't been a tropical storm in Southern California since 1939, but the National Weather Service
has posted a Tropical Storm Watch for Saturday until Monday. There could be more rain in 24 hours than some areas see in an entire year. Given the diverse topography and climate of Southern California, this could mean catastrophic flash flooding, high surf, beach erosion and damaging winds. It could also mean widespread disruption of road and rail travel, utility outages and more.
As of 5pm PT, Hurricane Hilary is a Category Four Storm with maximum sustained winds of 130mph. It is located about 310 miles south/southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Winds from the storm are due to begin buffeting the Southern tip of Baja California around 8pm PST tonight. Widespread damage is expected there after it makes landfall sometime tomorrow.
But the focus is on Hilary's arrival, probably as a tropical storm, in Southern California. It may reach San Diego by Sunday and then proceed up through most of Southern California. Up to ten inches of rain may fall in the mountains. In the desert, Palm Springs averages 4-5 inches of rain a year. But the forecast now calls for a total of 4-to-7 inches to fall on Sunday and Monday.
The region's major airports--LAX, San Diego, Long Beach, Burbank, John Wayne/Orange County, Ontario--can probably handle the rain and the winds although you should expect heavy delays and many cancellations. But the question remains whether you'll be able to navigate roads to and from the facilities.
Needless to say, if you are planning to travel to/from/around Southern California in the coming days, proceed with extreme caution and stay abreast of Zip Code-specific forecasts at Weather.gov. Defer travel if you can.
AMTRAK PROBLEMS IN NORTHEAST CORRIDOR
Amtrak traffic was halted for several hours this morning between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. Trains are moving again, but are seriously delayed, many by hours. Amtrak blamed a fallen tree that took down overhead power lines.
WESTERN CANADA WILDFIRES
Continuing wildfires in Canada have led to an order to evacuate Yellowknife, capital of Canada's huge Northwest Territories. Almost half of the region's approximately 45,000 residents live in Yellowknife. There's only one road out of town and cell service on the highway is virtually nonexistent. Most of the evacuation is being handled by air. Nearly two dozen extra flights have operated today at Yellowknife Airport (YZF). The destination for most was Calgary, Alberta. Meanwhile, a state of emergency was declared Friday in and around Kelowna, British Columbia, a city about 180 miles east of Vancouver. The airspace over Kelowna International Airport (YLW) was closed and all scheduled flights cancelled to clear the way for water bombers to battle the fires approaching the city.
Here are some of this week's other travel developments:
+ PHOENIX/SKY HARBOR AIRPORT
measured .01 inches of rain on Thursday. It ends a 147-day streak of no measurable rainfall at PHX, says the local weather service.
+ FRANKFURT AIRPORT
runways were flooded Wednesday evening into Thursday morning when a bizarre thunderstorm with hundreds of lightning strikes passed over parts of Germany. About 100 flights at FRA were cancelled and about 50% of the remaining flights ran late. That stranded thousands of connecting passengers at one of continental Europe's busiest hubs.
+ CATANIA AIRPORT (CTA)
on the Italian island of Sicily reopened Wednesday after two days of closures due to smoke and ash from a Sunday night eruption of nearby Mount Etna. Several dozen flights were cancelled and many others diverted, a particular inconvenience since Tuesday was Ferragosto, an Italian national holiday and heavy travel period. Catania Airport was hobbled for several days earlier this summer when a fire broke out in one of the passenger terminals.
+ CANARY ISLANDS
officials say nearly 10,000 acres of forests have been consumed by wildfires on Tenerife, the largest and most popular of the Canary Island group. Thousands of locals and visitors have been evacuated since the blazes broke out on Wednesday. Another 10,000 acres burned last month on the island of La Palma.
is suffering through a particularly virulent monsoon season. The heavier-than-normal rains have caused landslides and flash floods that have swamped roads and rail and washed away buildings. The worst hit is India's northern state of Himachal Pradesh where at least 72 people have died this week. The relentless storms this summer also have done heavy damage to the 94-kilometer-long Kalka-Shimla railway line, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Service has been halted.
8/13/23, 8PM ET, SUNDAY
MAUI BEGS VISITORS TO STAY AWAY FOR NOW
Travelers in general and JoeSentMe members in particular love Maui, but Hawaii officials are begging visitors to stay away
from the island for the immediate future. The reason: Maui's infrastructure is too fragile to support visitors and
service the needs of thousands of locals displaced by the wildfires that destroyed Lahaina, a city of around 13,000 year-round residents. Moreover, Kahului Airport (OGG) is short-staffed and straining to service evacuation, rescue and emergency-supply flights being flown by U.S. carriers. "We can't handle both right now," one Maui tourist official told me Saturday. "Everything here--hospitals, power, water, electric, infrastructure--is overwhelmed." About 50,000 visitors on Maui when the wildfires began Tuesday have already left the island, returning to their homes or relocating to other Hawaiian islands. All of the carriers serving Maui have issued travel waivers allowing travelers to reschedule their Maui flights. Many hotels are offering credits or refunds on upcoming reservations, too. The good news--if you can consider anything good news just now--is that Maui's two primary resort developments, Ka'anapali and Wailea, are undamaged. As soon as Maui gets back on its metaphoric feet, the island will need all the visitor revenue it can generate to help its recovery.
8/13/23, 7PM ET, SUNDAY
LAHAINA WASN'T JUST A 'TOURIST TOWN'
It's understandable that the mainstream media calls Lahaina "a tourist town." It has been
popular with visitors, especially travelers staying at the nearby Ka'anapali Resort. Front Street, with an array of shops and restaurants, was a tourist magnet. But with a year-round population of about 13,000, Lahaina was much more than a visitor attraction. It was the center of Hawaii's whaling industry in the 19th century and many of the monuments and historic sites were tied to whaling. Even before that, however, Lahaina was important as the first seat of the Hawaiian monarchy and capital of Hawaii. With the city now all but destroyed, most of Lahaina's whaling and monarchic history has been lost, too. Also a casualty of the wildfire: the 122-year-old Pioneer Inn, Lahaina's best-known hotel.
8/13/23, 11AM ET, SUNDAY
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
This has been an epically bad summer for travel--and for the planet. It's difficult even to keep up with developments since everything seems to be happening everywhere all at once. Here are just some of this week's distressing developments:
has suffered through massive flooding all summer. Flights were grounded at Beijing Daxing International Airport on August 1 when the airfield was flooded. Up to half the scheduled flights were cancelled in the following days as airport officials worked to clear the lakes of standing water on runways and tarmacs. Torrential rains inundated the Chinese capital and at least three dozen people died. Dozens more were reported missing. In neighboring Hebei Province, around 30 people died in flooding. At least seven more died in floods near Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. And this morning, Chinese officials said a flash flood and mudslide killed at least 20 people near Xi'an, home of the world-famous terracotta warriors. The flooding is the worst in China in at least 100 years and has come after record-breaking heat waves earlier this summer. Nearly 200 people died in flooding in July, the government said.
has been fighting massive wildfires this week. They started in the Alentejo region and have spread south toward the Algarve, one of the country's major tourist destinations. Algarve is crowded with Europeans on their annual summer vacations.
has suffered from two weeks of torrential rains, described as exceptional even for the summer monsoon season. At least 55 people have died in subsequent flooding, government officials say.
closed roads and rail links between its largest cities this week after extreme rainfall and flooding. SAS Scandinavian Airlines and Norwegian Air added rescue flights to alleviate the ground closures.
, now controlled by a particularly inept military junta, continues to keep its airspace closed. Coupled with airspace closures in the adjacent nations of Libya and Sudan, aviation around the continent has been hobbled. Flights must divert by hundreds of miles to complete their routes. Service between Europe and Southern Africa has also been affected.
concluded the 25th World Scout Jamboree Friday after 11 harrowing days. The huge event, which attracted Scouts from around the world, was marred by ferocious heat and a helter-skelter evacuation of a huge campsite hours before a typhoon. "The last few days have not been easy, to say the least," said Ahmad Alhendawi, the secretary general of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.
8/10/23, 11AM ET, THURSDAY
IT'S SUMMER, SO BA IS UNIQUELY AWFUL
What's inevitable? Death, taxes--and British Airways running a dreadful operation during the summer. This year's inevitable meltdown seems to focus on BA's flights between its London/Heathrow hub and Johannesburg, South Africa. Flights have been turning around en route and one flight racked up a 31-hour delay. Thousands of flyers on the key Europe-Africa route have been negatively impacted by BA's operation. Simon Calder, the respected travel reporter for London's Independent
newspaper, has the gory details
8/9/23, 2AM ET, WEDNESDAY
DELTA'S TURN IN THE (RAIN) BARREL
I guess this counts as a victory in the summer of 2023: Conditions on Monday and Tuesday weren't quite as bad as the National Weather Service predicted (see below), so flying was only an outright disaster on one day instead of two. Monday was the awful day: more than 9,000 delays nationwide and more than 1,750 cancellations. That's among the worst flying days of the summer. With only scattered showers on Tuesday around the East, however, both delays (about 6,500) and cancellations (429) fell sharply across the nation.
But it was Delta's turn in the (rain) barrel and, once again, the Atlanta-based carrier proved its rhetoric about being a markedly better operation is mostly hokum. With storms pelting its Atlanta/Hartsfield hub, Delta on Monday cancelled an eye-watering 443 flights, which represents about 12% of its global schedule. Its wholly owned commuter operation, Endeavor Air, cancelled 179 flights, a startling 25% of its schedule.
8/8/23, 11:30PM ET, TUESDAY
THE MONTH THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE
With wildfires burning in parts of Europe, Canada and now Hawaii and heatwaves gripping many countries, the earth literally seems to be burning. And global temperatures prove it. July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, according to the European Union's climate observatory. Last month was 0.33 degrees Celsius higher than the record set in July, 2019, when the average global temperature was 16.63 Celsius (61.93 Fahrenheit). "It has not been this warm, combining observational records and paleoclimate records, for the last 120,000 years," said Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service. Agence France-Presse has more depressing details
8/8/23, 11AM ET, TUESDAY
FLYING COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE ...
Think flying in the United States has been awful this summer? Believe it or not, it's worse in Europe. More than a third of scheduled flights were delayed by 15 minutes or more between May 1 and August 1 at Europe’s 50 busiest airports, according to data compiled by FlightAware. The Wall Street Journal
has more details
8/7/23, 11PM ET, MONDAY
HAIL--AND HEARTY AGAIN
Delta Air Lines Flight 185 departed Milan/Malpensa on July 24 for New York/Kennedy, but flew into a freakishly heavy hail storm and diverted to Rome/Fiumicino Airport. The damage to the 26-year-old Boeing 767-300 was so severe--including a sizable hole in the nose--that the flight was cancelled and the jet taken out of service. (CNN talked
to a frightened passenger on the flight.) But, surprise, the patched-up aircraft with tail number N189DN was back in service today operating as Flight 9938 from Rome to Atlanta. The plane will probably be grounded again in Atlanta so the airframe can undergo additional repairs.
8/7/23, 8:30AM ET, MONDAY
AMTRAK RUNS THE GASLIGHT EXPRESS OVERTIME
It's been a tough summer for travel, but Amtrak is just gaslighting us now and blaming all of its copious delays on bad weather. On July 31, for example, it announced that Adirondack Train 69, which normally runs from New York's Penn Station to Montreal, would terminate at Sarasota Springs, New York. The reason? "Extreme heat order restrictions," the railroad explained. Except that no stop north of Saratoga Springs was forecast to top 75 degrees that day. Want more of the Gaslight Express? Amtrak warned all Northeast Corridor travelers on July 31 that they "should expect heat-related delays ... due to excessive temperatures." The problem with that claim? Temperatures have been unseasonably cool all summer in the Northeast. Philadelphia's forecast high on July 31 was 83 degrees, four degrees below average. And temps in the New York area dipped into the upper 50s overnight before Amtrak issued its heat warning. Amtrak continued its weather gaslighting today. Early this morning it ominously predicted that "excessive heat and weather disruptions may cause Northeast Corridor delays." Except weather geeks beg to disagree. Today's forecast high is just 76 in Boston, 75 in Albany, 82 in New York and Philadelphia and 85 in Baltimore and Washington. There's also no rain or weather disruptions of any kind anywhere in the region.
8/6/23, 11:30PM ET, SUNDAY
AND NOW THE REALLY BAD NEWS
Prepare for potential massive schedule disruptions on Monday and Tuesday due to severe storms that could blanket the entire nation east of the Mississippi River.
According to the National Weather Service, these storms could bring heavy rains, dangerous lightning, road flooding and tornadoes throughout the affected area. Needless to say, none of those conditions are conducive to timely flying. If the NWS predictions are accurate, the storms will hit as early as Monday morning Eastern time and continue through Tuesday. In other words, once again there will be nowhere to run and nowhere to fly.
Even without these new storms, today was extremely difficult at several major hubs. Nearly half the flights ran late in Atlanta. About 12% were simply cancelled. Charlotte was nearly as bad. Denver had fewer cancellations, but four in ten flights ran late. Nearly half the flights at Baltimore/Washington ran late, too. That means lots of missed connections and displaced travelers.
If Monday and Tuesday's weather is as bad as the NWS suggests, the best option is to delay your travel plans until later in the week. If you must fly, don't check bags, know your airport hotel options and have Plans B, C and D for alternate routings. And pack lots and lots of patience. Delays and cancellations could surpass anything we've seen so far this summer.
Two other items of note: Niger has closed its airspace due to the political upheavals in the West African nation. That is causing serious disruptions of flights to, from and around the continent because the airspace of Libya and Sudan is also closed. That's a wide swath of air space to fly around. Flights that departed from Europe or South Africa before Niger's military junta closed the airspace have been diverting to places like Abidjan and Lagos. The additional problem there? The airports in both cities have experienced jet fuel shortages and may not have enough to refuel the widebodies diverting there.
Also notable: Bad weather and flooding around the Pacific Rim nations continue to cause heavy cancellations and massive delays at airports in China, Korea and Japan. Plan accordingly.
7/30/23, 9:45PM ET, SUNDAY
JUST WHEN WE THOUGHT WE WERE OUT ...
Getting a Godfather III
vibe from this week? No surprise. Just when we thought we were out of the summer travel crisis, they pull us back in. After a comparatively decent week of travel, the weekend collapsed. On Friday, for example, there were an eye-watering 9,977 delays nationwide. The worst offenders? The usual suspects. Newark, Atlanta, Washington/National, Baltimore/Washington, Toronto, New York/LaGuardia, New York/JFK, Chicago/O'Hare and Chicago/Midway all rang up an on-time performance of around 60%. Denver was even worse, running just 54% on-time. Saturday brought fewer delays (about 8,400), but more than 1,000 cancellations nationwide. Today has been a bit better with about 6,500 delays as of 9:30pm, according to FlightAware.com. Here are this week's other developments:
PLANE WORRISOME ...
Must to avoid? Any United Airlines flight operated by the aircraft with registration number N666UA. The 767-300 has had two worrisome incidents this month. On July 17, the aircraft lost an escape slide as it neared Chicago/O'Hare after a flight from Zurich. The slide floated down and landed in the Chicago suburbs. It hit the roof of a private home about 2.5 miles from O'Hare and caused some damage. Then on Wednesday (July 26), it returned to O'Hare about 45 minutes after departing for Zurich. The flight aborted after the crew declared an emergency due to excessive heat and smoke on the flight deck. There were no injuries in either incident.
EUROPE'S HUMILIATING HUBS ...
Almost unnoticed while Southern Europe melts under the relentless heat is the miserable performance of key hubs elsewhere on the continent. The big three--London/Heathrow, Paris/CDG and Frankfurt--are all running terribly. Their on-time performance most days hovers around 50%, meaning lots of missed international connections worldwide. Those hubs don't even have bad weather to blame. Comparatively speaking, the weather has been fine.
THE BAD PLACE ...
Kristen Bell, most recently the star of The Good Place
, found out that the bad place is right here on earth. She, her husband (actor Dax Shepard), their children and some friends were hit with a nine-hour flight delay at Boston/Logan. They made do by purchasing about $600 in pillows and blankets and spread out at the gate. But they were rousted from their perch when the airport closed. There were no available hotel rooms in the area--several sporting events sold out the Boston area even before bad weather hit--so the Bell party relocated after midnight to the attic of a friend of a friend. Fox News has details.
REALLY HOT STUFF ...
The heat wave burning through Southern Europe has caused massive wildfires in Greece and elsewhere and brutal temperature throughout the region. One example: The cobblestones inside the Colosseum in Rome reached 155 degrees Fahrenheit this week. Meanwhile, Palermo Airport closed on Tuesday after wildfires in Sicily approached airport grounds. Earlier this month, Catania Airport in Sicily closed for several days after a fire damaged the passenger terminal.
AMTRAK ISN'T EVEN TRYING ...
Amtrak trains in the Northeast Corridor have been wildly off schedule for weeks. The railroad blames a variety of issues--signal breakdowns, track issues, crew problems--but mostly put the onus on high temperatures. In fact, Amtrak has begun most days this month by issuing a boilerplate statement warning about delays due to "excessive heat and weather-related disruptions." Today, however, temperatures in the region fell into the 60s in the morning and mostly topped out in the low 80s. There were only scattered showers and no storms. Amtrak's excuse for its miserable performance today
? The delays were due to "excessive heat and weather-related disruptions."
7/23/23, 8:15PM ET, SUNDAY
NO RELIEF FROM THE HEAT--OR TRAVEL CONSEQUENCES
With fair--if steamy--weather around the nation on Saturday, U.S. airlines posted what we can assume is going to be the new summer normal: "only" about 6,400 flight delays and a respectable number (243) of cancellations. Today isn't shaping up to be nearly as good, however. By 8pm ET, FlghtStats.com had registered 6,600 delays and 300 cancellations. And the evening storms have just begun. Next week looks shaky, too, with plenty of storms predicted around the East Coast, so plan accordingly. Here are today's other notable developments:
UNITED BOWS TO NEWARK REALITIES ...
After being the nexus of flying incompetence at the beginning of the Fourth of July holidays, United Airlines is bowing, ever so slightly to the realities of Newark this summer. The carrier says it is cutting its operations at its crucial New York-area hub to 390 daily flights, down from its planned 430 and the 410 per day it's been trying to run. The weather has been awful this month, of course, but United also failed to heed the warnings of the FAA, which begged the carrier months ago to slash its overstuffed Newark operations due to a severe shortage of air traffic controllers. The FAA says it's only been able to staff New York area control towers to 55-60% of pre-pandemic levels.
ORLANDO, NEWARK OF THE SOUTH ...
About half the flights at Orlando have been delayed today, continuing this month's string of dreary operations. And the problems are not all that unlike those at Newark: too many flights, too many thunderstorms and too few air traffic controllers.
DELVING INTO DELTA ...
Unless you've been living in a cabin off the grid--If you are, how are you reading this?--you've undoubtedly heard the tale of Delta Flight 555. It was scheduled to fly from Las Vegas to Atlanta on Monday, bur spent upwards of four hours on the tarmac as temperatures on the Boeing 757 soared past 110 degrees. Many passengers and some crewmembers were sickened by the high temperatures and some required medical attention. Delta has never explained why the plane was not air conditioned while it waited or why it sat so long on the tarmac before departure. (The flight was eventually cancelled.) Now the Transportation Department says it's delving into details surrounding the flight. "I want to know how it was possible for passengers to be left in triple-digit heat onboard an aircraft for that long," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Reuters. He called the incident "infuriating" and "shocking." Of course, everything the DOT does these days has a performative quality, so don't hold your breath waiting for a hard and fast denouement. Technically, Delta could be fined up to $27,500 a passenger for exceeding the three-hour tarmac-hold rules
that DOT instituted more than a decade ago.
AMTRAK OFF THE RAILS ...
Things are rotten in the skies, but they aren't much better on the rails, either. Amtrak trains have been heavily delayed all week even when it's not raining or stormy. Amtrak has alternately blamed signal issues, track problems, congestion caused by freight trains, the relentless heat and, I think, the shortage of air traffic controllers. (Okay, fair enough, Amtrak didn't really
blame FAA staffing. I made that up.) But the truth of the matter is that Amtrak isn't promising to improve any time soon. It has sent out a CYA warning that it expects trains to run late--sometimes, very late--all summer. Plan accordingly and maybe avoid any connecting train itineraries.
A COLOSSAL FIRE ...
Greece has been on fire since the latest heat waves began rolling across Southern Europe, but today has been particularly bad on the island of Rhodes. A wildfire stoked by 30mph winds has forced the evacuation of at least 30,000 people on the tourist island. Several European carriers have suspended their flights to the island. The air temperature today: 113 degrees. Another heat wave is expected to blanket Greece next week.
HEAT FROM COAST TO COAST ...
Phoenix has now recorded 23 consecutive days of temps above 110 degrees. The average
temperature for the month of July is now expected to be above 100 degrees. It's getting so hot--with no relief in sight--that we're within a few degrees of when Phoenix Sky Harbor may start grounding flights. The Arizona Republic
. In Las Vegas, temperatures are forecast to climb above 110 for the tenth consecutive day, matching an historic record. Meanwhile, in Florida, Miami has reported a heat index above 100 degrees for more than 40 consecutive days. And the National Weather Service says more than 80 million people across the nation are wilting under excessive heat warnings.
7/17/23, 11:15PM ET, MONDAY
RAIN STOPS, DELAYS DON'T
Today should have been a better day to fly since the storms that pummeled the East in the last few days mostly subsided. No such luck.
Although cancellations fell sharply--"only" 407 so far today, according to FlightAware.com--delays are notably high: nearly 7,900 as of 10:45pm. The news was especially bad in Florida, where about half the flights into and out of Orlando are running late; about 30% of the schedule at Miami is late. Perpetual offenders Newark and New York/Kennedy are also about 30%. A third of flights at Toronto/Pearson are late.
The bad news? The storms return on Tuesday, so buckle up. Here are today's other developments:
THE SUNDAY SLAUGHTER ...
Final numbers for Sunday were horrifying: More than 10,100 delays nationwide and nearly 1,750 cancellations. Add in the extensive delays at Amtrak--high temperatures and heavy rains led to track and signal problems--and it was a Sunday to forget.
BLUE MONDAY (AND SUNDAY) ...
JetBlue Airways is a notoriously bad operator even in good weather, but its flight schedule has been a disaster during the last 48 hours. The airline cancelled 30% of its schedule on Sunday and another 7% so far today. Almost half of the flights it did run Sunday were delayed and more than half have been off-schedule today.
SOME GOOD NEWS ...
Tropical Storm Calvin is weakening as it approaches the Hawaiian islands. According to the just-released update from the National Weather Service, maximum sustained winds are down to 45mph and the storm is expected to weaken as it nears the islands. The first effects of Calvin could reach the Big Island as early as late tomorrow evening local time.
VERMONT OFF-TRACK ...
Amtrak continues to cancel and/or truncate trains operating in Vermont. Track flooding and other issues are the causes. Plan accordingly.
THE SAHARA SPEADS ...
The extreme heatwave in Southern Europe has spread to Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and the Balkans. How bad is it? "The Sahara is creeping into Europe," one expert told the BBC.
CATANIA CLOSED ...
The airport in Catania--one of the two major facilities on the island of Sicily--is closed due to a terminal fire on Sunday. The airport will remain shuttered until Wednesday local time.
7/16/23, 6:15PM ET, SUNDAY
SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY
Every day this summer seems to be worse than the one before. Today is no exception as another round of storms in the East and heat in the West and Southwest is scrambling our travel plans.
As of 6pm ET, more than 7,600 flights have already been delayed around the nation. Cancellations have surged to beyond 1,500, according to FlightAware.com. The usual suspects head the list: Newark (28% of scheduled flights already cancelled); New York/LaGuardia (27%); New York/Kennedy (21%); Boston/Logan (17%); and Washington/National (10%). Naturally, these delays are cascading from East to West and travelers around the nation are finding no aircraft and no crews to service their flights. Worse, airlines are literally out of seats. Travelers cancelled today are being told that, in many cases, there are no seats available until Tuesday afternoon. Worst of all, things can only get worse from here today. Logan and JFK have already had ground stops and more stormy weather is on the way. Here are today's other developments:
BLAST FURNACE ...
It hit 118 degrees at Phoenix/Sky Harbor yesterday, the hottest day in more than two years. And today it already has reached 114 degrees in Las Vegas. Needless to say, hotels and city fathers are suggesting visitors stay indoors in the air-conditioned casinos.
HAWAII HEEBIE-JEEBIES ...
Because if it can go wrong this summer, it will, we're watching the movements of Tropical Storm Calvin in the Central Pacific. It's headed right to Hawaii and currently has sustained winds of 65mph. According to the National Weather Service's latest advisory (at 5pm ET/11am HT), the storm is about 2,000 kilometers east of Hilo on the Big Island and moving at about 16 miles per hour. That would mean the storm could begin to impact the islands late Tuesday or early Wednesday local time. If the storm--either as a tropical-force or hurricane-force cyclone--hits Hawaii, it'll be the earliest one to hit the islands. Pay attention to this one, folks, and plan accordingly if your travel includes Hawaii. The most up-to-date information is here
A PLAN B FOR YOUR PLAN B ...
With airports in the East disgorging thousands of cancelled and heavily delayed flyers, airport hotels are jacking up their nightly rates. The wildly overrated TWA Hotel at JFK, the only property on airport grounds, is quoting $700 tonight. Airport Hyatts, Hiltons and Marriotts are charging around $350-$400 tonight. A workaround? Use your points. The Hyatt Regency at Resorts World near JFK requires just 15,000 World of Hyatt points tonight for rooms quoted at $400+. Around 42,000 Marriott points will get you into Marriott-branded JFK-area hotels quoting $400 tonight. And 60,000 Hilton Honors points will cover a room at the Hilton Garden Inn at JFK that is charging $350 a night in cash. Worth remembering for future crises. Hotel chains can ratchet up cash rates faster than they can adjust award prices. So last-minute airport rooms can be an excellent use of your points.
AMTRAK AGONISTES ...
High temperatures and those nasty Eastern storms are also playing havoc with Amtrak schedules today. Although hard numbers are hard to come by, a look at the train-by-train performance at Railrat.net
is not pretty. Amtrak is mostly blaming signal and track issues for the delays.
FRIDAY NIGHT'S NOT ALRIGHT ...
The final numbers for Friday (July 14) were soul-crushingly bad. FlightAware.com recorded a startling 10,089 delays and 1,244 cancellations. See the earlier numbers below.
SATURDAY SADNESS ...
Yesterday was no bargain, either, with 8,870 delays and 702 cancellations. And that was with comparatively calm weather around the East. Newark still had about 20% of its flights washed away and about 40% delayed. New York/Kennedy suffered delays on about half of its flights. New York/LaGuardia and Fort Lauderdale were also around the 40% mark.
7/14/23, 11PM ET, FRIDAY
NOWHERE TO RUN, NOWHERE TO FLY ..
These are the days that try men's souls and leave travelers weeping at the airport bar ...
Strong early-morning thunderstorms in the East and another round of bad weather this evening have left the system in tatters. FlightAware.com has already recorded 1,170 cancellations in the United States, nearly five times the flights dumped yesterday. And delays are out of control with more than 9,200 already on the books. Major airports in the East are basically disasters. About 45% of departures have been delayed at New York/LaGuardia, Newark, Orlando, Baltimore/Washington and Boston/Logan. It's around 40% at New York/Kennedy, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. One in three flights have been off-schedule at Atlanta, Washington/National, Washington/Dulles, Toronto/Pearson, Charlotte and Philadelphia.
In other words, as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas sang: nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nowhere to fly. And you know the heartbreak will come: Saturday and Sunday's weather will be equally unsettled with schedule-crushing storms in the East and soul-crushing heat in parts of California and all through the Southwest and Southeast. Plan accordingly or, better yet, give up and stay home where you are hopefully dry and cool.
Here are today's other developments:
LIKE A HEATWAVE ...
Speaking of Martha Reeves, can we talk about the heatwave in parts of Europe? It soared past 104 degrees Fahrenheit today in Athens, causing the Greek government to close the Acropolis to visitors during the height of the daylight hours. Similar measures are expected today. Italy has declared a red alert for Rome and several other cities and urged locals and visitors alike to stay off the streets during the day. Temperatures also neared 100 degrees in many parts of Spain. Worse, temperatures are expected to stay at or near triple digits into next week.
GATWICK STRIKES ...
Nothing at all melodic about this: Groundworkers at London/Gatwick Airport have voted to strike over eight days later this month and early August. First strike period is July 28 to August 1. Plan accordingly, especially if you are due to fly British Airways or WestJet and/or are connecting at LGW for flights operated by EasyJet, Ryanair or Wizz. And a reminder: Italian flights will be hit by strikes today.
Sorry i couldn't work in a reference to Dancing in the Street
, but, weather permitting, crank up Martha and do it. After all, it's an invitation across the nation--and it sounds so much better than flying right now ...
7/12/23, 11:30PM ET, WEDNESDAY
BECAUSE, OF COURSE, A HURRICANE ..
Until today, this period of ridiculous travel weather has featured everything but tornadoes and a plague of locust. Now we've had the tornado.
The National Weather Service confirms that a tornado touched down near Chicago/O'Hare Airport at around 7pm Central Time. Passengers scrambled for shelter, the airport's inter-terminal shuttle system stopped and hundreds of flights were delayed or cancelled. Thankfully, there have been no reports of injuries.
So far today, FlightAware.com has recorded nearly 500 cancellations nationwide--and more than 330 involved flights to or from ORD. About 45% of O'Hare's scheduled flights today have been delayed. Around 40% of flights at Chicago/Midway have been delayed.
Here's what else you need to know:
AMTRAK DISRUPTIONS ...
After being suspended since Sunday due to flooding and other track issues, Amtrak today resumed service between New York/Penn Station and Albany. Service south of Washington also resumed after a brief disruption yesterday due to a derailment outside Union Station. But Amtrak suspended service in Vermont today on the Ethan Allen Express and Vermonter trains due to severe flooding in the state.
ITALY STRIKES ...
Most long-haul trains in Italy will be cancelled on Thursday (7/13) due to a rail strike. Look for massive flight cancellations on Saturday (7/15) when airport workers strike.
ISRAEL DEMONSTRATIONS ...
A long-simmering dispute over judicial reform boiled over again this week and there have been demonstrations throughout the country, including (noisy, but peaceful) activity at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.
I'll leave you now so I can research locusts because, let's be honest, you know they're coming to an airport near you this summer ...
7/9/23, 11:15PM ET, SUNDAY
THE RAIN INSANE FALLS MAINLY ON THE FLYER ...
Ugly. Really ugly. And very, very wet. That's the only way to describe a day like today when some flyers were delayed by six hours more due to relentless rain in the East. Thousands of flights were cancelled, too. Here are the latest developments.
SUNDAY SUMMER SLAUGHTER ...
Rain and thunderstorms stretching from New England to south of Washington all but paralyzed air travel for many hours today. As of 11pm, FlightAware.com recorded nearly 7,600 delays and 2,000 cancellations nationwide. Half of the flights at New York"s LaGuardia Airport were dumped and there were high levels of cancellations at Newark (30%); Philadelphia (25%); New York/JFK (20%); Washington/National (18%) and Boston/Logan (16%). JFK-based JetBlue Airways cancelled 21% of its flights today and commuter operators for the mainline carriers dumped as many as 40% of their schedules. At one point, there were simultaneous ground stops in effect at all three New York area airports, Logan, National, Baltimore/Washington and Philadelphia.
AMTRAK AGONISTES ...
Flooding on many portions of the track between Manhattan and Albany, New York's state capital, led Amtrak to cancel all trains this evening between the cities. Cancellations are expected to linger through tomorrow morning. The so-called Empire Builder service is the key transportation link between upstate New York and New York City.
RIDERS ON THE STORM ...
The area worst hit by Sunday's prodigious rainmaker? West Point, New York, home of the U.S. Military Academy. About eight inches of rain fell Sunday afternoon and early evening at a rate of 1-2 inches per hour.
SATURDAY WAS NO PICNIC ...
Flying on Saturday (July 8) looked "better" only in retrospect. There were more than 8,200 delay and a relatively modest 320 cancellations, according to FlightAware.com.
UNORTHODOX OPS ...
A passenger boarding bridge collapsed on Monday morning at Dublin Airport. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the structural failure also ripped the door off an American Airlines 787 connected to the bridge. Meanwhile, a United Airlines flight tonight from Houston to Amsterdam diverted to Chicago/O'Hare due to an unruly passenger. The aircraft's pilot made several circles over Lake Michigan to dump fuel before the diversionary landing.
STRIKE WATCH ...
Look for a statement on Monday from Eurocontrol, which handles most of Europe's air traffic control. Several of its unions may strike this summer and that would cause massive disruptions to both intra-continental and transatlantic flight schedules. No strike dates have been announced by the one union that already has approved a work stoppage, but this is a situation that bears watching. Needless to say, defer booking Europe travel until we hear what Eurocontrol and its unions have to say.
7/7/23, 11PM ET, FRIDAY
IT'S GETTING WORSE OUT THERE
I regret to report that life on the road is getting worse, not better, even though the weather in recent days has improved. Here are the latest developments.
DELAYS SHOOT UP AGAIN ...
After slowing down earlier in the week, flight delays have shot up again on Thursday and today. FlightAware.com reported 7,700 delays yesterday and around 7,600 so far today. The worst offenders continue to be East Coast airports: Newark, New York/LaGuardia, New York/Kennedy, Boston/Logan and Washington/National. Avoid those hellholes if possible. Worst carriers? The commuter giant Republic Airways, which flies for American, Delta and United, and Delta's wholly owned Endeavor Air. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Check your schedules and rebook away from those carriers if you can.
CANCELLATIONS TREND UP, TOO ...
After falling to around 300 on Thursday, cancellations have topped 700 so far today. Proceed with caution and beware this weekend's performance.
WILL ALLEN DODGES A BULLET ...
Will Allen is often on the losing end of travel chaos, but he beat the summer odds on a recent trip. Read about his good fortune here
7/5/23, 11PM ET, WEDNESDAY
THE TRAVEL HOLIDAY FROM HELL
How bad has this holiday from travel hell been? It's even knocked out the JoeSentMe mail server. Meanwhile, the airlines continue to make our lives on the road and in the air a flying hell. Here are the latest developments.
DELAYS, THE CONTINUING STORY ...
Despite much improved weather nationwide, the airlines continue to delay flights with abandon. So far today, (Wednesday) about 6,500 flights have been delayed. Yesterday (July 4), FlightAware.com recorded about 4,600. On Monday, July 3, the delay count was 5,100.
CANCELLATIONS DECLINE ...
The relatively good news? Cancellations have plummeted compared to last week. There have been 461 so far today, about 450 yesterday and just 150 on Monday.
AMSTERDAM SPRINGS A LEAK ...
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, once Europe's most reliable hub, has been running poorly for more than a year. But Storm Poly has played havoc this week with schedules there. About 500 flights--most operated by KLM or its Cityhopper commuter subsidiary--were cancelled yesterday and today. The storm--with winds as high as 90 miles per hour--also knocked out most of the rail service this morning in the Netherlands.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT NEWARK ...
Some unsettled weather made Newark a very unfestive place to be on the Fourth of July. Thirteen percent of the scheduled flights were dumped yesterday. Yes, of course, most cancellations were by United.
BOSTON IS BOGGED DOWN ...
The Sumner Tunnel, the primary road access route to Boston/Logan Airport, closed today (July 5) and will remain closed until at least August 31. That is creating havoc on the other roadways to Logan. The state transportation agency is recommending you leave two hours to get to or from the airport. Better alternatives? The Blue Line subway to/from the airport station. The Blue Line also connects to both the Orange and Green lines. Or consider MBTA ferries. They connect the Logan ferry dock to Long Wharf on the Boston waterfront. Anything is better than driving while the tunnel is closed.
7/2/23, 11PM ET, SUNDAY
IT'S STILL BAD OUT THERE
Unfortunately, the holiday chaos continues in the skies. Here are the latest (mostly dreary) developments.
THE ONES AFTER 9-0-9 ...
Even though the weather hasn't been as bad as earlier in the week, the airlines continue to delay flights with relentless intensity. FlightAware.com says that more than 7,100 flights have been delayed today after almost 8,000 more yesterday.
CANCEL CULTURE ...
If there is silver lining in this week's nightmare, it's that cancellations have slowed dramatically. There were just 274 nationwide yesterday. There have been 612 so far today, but that is still a relief compared to the 2,000+ daily dumps being registered earlier in the week.
THE PANDEMIC REALLY IS OVER ...
The TSA says it screened 2,883,595 people at U.S. airports on Friday, June 30. That surpasses by about 600 travelers the number screened on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019. That had
been the busiest one-day total ever recorded by the TSA. Friday was also a record day at Newark, the nexus of troubles this holiday season. The TSA said it screened 83,041 people, the most ever for a single day at EWR. So I guess the pandemic really is in the rear-view mirror.
UNITED SAYS BLAME CANADA ...
United chief executive Scott Kirby continues to alibi for the carrier's egregious performance this week. His latest missive even blames Canada because it has banned overflights from Newark when the weather at EWR is bad and pilots need alternate westbound routes. He also continues to scapegoat the FAA and a raft of other tangential causes and ludicrous non-sequiturs. In fact, the key causes of the airline's meltdown this week are abundantly clear. United is hideously overscheduled at Newark even in good weather and the carrier's crew-scheduling system collapsed this week.
LET'S MAKE BELIEVE WE CARE ...
United emailed travelers caught in its meltdown this week and promised a 30,000-mile MileagePlus bonus as a make good for the inconvenience. The mileage award is the right thing to do, the airline's chief customer officer, Linda Jojo, explained. But United is playing the angles even here. Unlike Southwest Airlines after its Christmas meltdown
, United has made no promise to provide compensation for meals, hotels and other travel expenses that displaced flyers racked up. And even United's mileage offer is a bit of a head fake. Southwest's initial apology letter offered a code to deposit 25,000 Rapid Rewards points in the accounts of affected travelers. United is making flyers wait for another email detailing a procedure to claim the 30,000-mile make good. That'll ensure plenty of "breakage" as travelers miss the follow-up email or neglect to process a request.
I CAN'T VOUCH(ER) FOR THIS, BUT ...
I have long urged flyers not to wait in long airport lines during delays in hopes of scoring a paltry airline meal voucher. But Gary Leff at the View From The Wing blog offers a clever trick for turning vouchers into usable credits in the Starbucks app. And some of Gary's commenters suggest it works with other apps, too. Read the useful piece here
6/30/23, 11:30PM ET, FRIDAY
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE TRAVEL UGLY
If you want to whistle Ennio Morricone's iconic theme while you read this brief recap of flying conditions, who am I to stop you?
Cancellations are finally subsiding. FlightAware.com has registered 465 so far today and 770 yesterday. As recently as Tuesday, the airlines had cancelled more than 2,200 nationwide.
Airlines continue snowstorm-level delays across the nation, meaning lots of busted itineraries, mishandled luggage and missed flights. So far today, there have been 8,000 delayed flights nationwide after 8,300 yesterday.
United insists its operations are improving, but that is only true compared to the hellscape it has offered this week. It has cancelled nearly 250 flights today or around 10% of its mainland operations. And United alone is responsible for more than half of today's cancellations nationwide. It was even worse yesterday. United's 529 cancellations were 18% of its mainline network and the airline was responsible for more than two-thirds of the nationwide total.
United chief executive Scott Kirby was forced to publicly apologize for flying a private jet Wednesday from Teterboro Airport while his staff and United passengers were grappling with a travel nightmare at the carrier's nearby Newark hub. He stressed that he paid for the charter out of his own pocket. Which is 21st century CEO speak for "Let them eat meal vouchers!"
American Airlines is boasting about its comparatively smooth operations this week. And we know what happens when an airline claims to be holier-than-thou, right? Its turn in the barrel can't be far off. Watch for the AA meltdown in 3...2...1...
By the way, if you can't whistle, listen
to the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's seminal version.
6/28/23, 11PM ET, WEDNESDAY
UNITED IS THE VILLAIN OF THE PIECE
Flying has been comparatively
better in recent hours--and we have a villain of the piece: United Airlines.
First the overview: The airlines have "only" cancelled about 1,100 flights so far today compared to around 2,200 yesterday. Delays are still widespread, however, with FlightAware.com counting 6,700 today compared to nearly 7,800 yesterday. The delays and cancellations are still mostly due to the seemingly endless storms in the East. There have been periodic ground stops and backed-up flights at major Eastern airports.
The "good" news? The weather forecast looks better Thursday and Friday and that could give airlines a chance to reset their networks. The bad news? Thursday was already scheduled to be the busiest day of the holiday weekend with about 52,500 flights scheduled nationwide. That's about 3,000 more than today or Friday. So eyes wide open if you're on the road tomorrow.
And now the aforementioned villain of the piece. United chief executive Scott Kirby came out blazing this morning, heaping scorn on the FAA and blaming the agency for the nation's problems thus week. And there are more than a few grains of truth there: The FAA is woefully understaffed and there are thousands of unfilled air traffic controller slots, especially in key regions such as New York Metro and Florida.
But every airline accusation is always a confession. The United network has been melting down and its systems have not been able to get aircraft repositioned or flight crews properly rescheduled. Much like the Southwest meltdown over Christmas, United employees say they can't even reach the carrier for reassignment.
How bad is it? United has cancelled about 23% of its mainline schedule today. That represents 670 flights--more than half of all the flights
dumped nationwide today. Yesterday, United cancelled 785 mainline flights or 34% of its mainline network. On Monday, United cancelled 19% of its mainline network. By comparison, Delta and American airlines have never reached a double-digit percent of mainline cancellations this week. Even New York/JFK-based JetBlue, a notoriously bad operator, has kept its cancellations below the 10% mark.
6/27/23, 10:15AM ET, TUESDAY
SUMMERTIME--AND THE FLYING AIN'T EASY
I don't mean to go all Gershwin on you, but it's Summertime--and the flying is definitely not easy.
Monday was a brutal day on the road, with more than 2,200 cancellations and 8,700 delays nationwide. Today is already shaping up as another downer, with FlightAware.com registering more than 850 cancels and 1,600 delays by 10am ET.
THE IMMEDIATE PROBLEM?
Vicious thunderstorms in the East from Boston in the north to Charlotte in the south. Yesterday, for example, storms wiped out about 40% of the flights at Newark and New York/LaGuardia. Airports such as New York/Kennedy and Boston/Logan registered about 15% cancellations. Airports in the Washington area--National, Dulles and BWI--were in the 10% range. Meanwhile, Canada's main Eastern airports (Montreal and Toronto/Pearson) had problems related to the wildfire smoke and the Texas hubs in Dallas and Houston were impacted by the 100+ degree temperatures.
THE WORSE NEWS?
There's little relief in sight. Stormy weather in the East will continue right up until the Fourth of July. As will the high heat in the Southern plains and the wildfire issues in Canada.
THE WORST NEWS?
With so many successive days of weather-related problems, airlines won't have much chance to reset their networks. There will be an increasing number of cancellations in the days ahead because flight crews and aircraft will be out of position. Moreover, we may see additional flights dumped if crews run up against their monthly duty time limits for June.
SOLUTIONS & WORKAROUNDS?
Not many. Obviously, avoid connections through East Coast airports if you can. Have a Plan B: Know your alternate flight options and airport-hotel choices before you go. Make sure your carrier has accurate E-mail, mobile phone and text info so they can reach you with any automated reaccommodations they arrange. Don't check bags since mishandled luggage rates will skyrocket as flights are delayed and cancelled. Carrying on is always the best option.
Don't wait for airlines to provide meal or lodging options if your flight is cancelled or heavily delayed. The voucher lines at airports will be incredibly long. Book your own hotels and buy your own meals and argue with airlines about reimbursement later.
And, naturally, defer as much flying as you can in the week ahead. The Independence Day weekend was already shaping up as a busy one. Traffic was expected to be at or near pre-pandemic levels. There aren't a lot of empty seats available for reaccommodation when weather scrambles your initial itinerary.
Mostly, though, pack plenty of patience, stock up energy-rich snacks and bring forbearance. It's going to be a rough week ahead.