(FiveNation.com)- COVID-19 may be surging across the country, but that isn’t stopping people from going on summer trips.
Air travel in America is now reaching new highs of the pandemic, forcing many airlines to scramble to find ways to keep up with the demand.
The Transportation Security Administration reported that air travel on Sunday set a high mark recently, as more than 2.2 million people went through security checkpoints at airports around the country.
That marked an increase of 11,000 people since July 18, and it’s the highest total number of screened travelers since February of 2020, before the pandemic fully hit the United States.
Despite the recent surge in travel, overall trips are down 17% from 2019.
The increase in demand for air travel has coincided with some bad weather around the country, too. This has caused many airlines to either delay or cancel flights, and has made it difficult for them to fully ramp back up after they were decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airlines received approximately $54 billion from the federal government in bailout money during the pandemic. The money was meant to help keep employees on their payroll. Yet, the airlines have still somehow found themselves short-staffed and unable to handle the demand at times recently.
Just this week, Spirit Airlines, which is based in Florida, had to cancel about a third of all its flights. The company said the bad weather as well as “operational challenges” forced all those cancellations.
Field Sutton, a spokesman for the company, said they are “working around the clock to get back on track.”
FlightAware, a flight tracking service, reported that on Sunday, roughly 7,400 flights arrived a minimum of 15 minutes behind their original schedule. In addition, 900 flights were cancelled outright.
Of those cancellations, almost half came from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The region was hit with strong thunderstorms in the afternoon and the evening. That airport is the largest hub for American Airlines.
FlightAware also reported that since the beginning of July, at least 5,000 flights were delayed on most days. The airlines that were the biggest culprits were Spirit, Southwest and American.
On Sunday, the company reported that 19% of Spirit Airlines’ flights were cancelled. In addition, at least 40% of the airlines’ flights were delayed. That same percentage of flights were delayed at Southwest for Sunday.
That trend didn’t correct itself earlier this week, either. Spirit reported cancelled 32% of all their flights by the middle of the day Monday.
All of these delays are starting to raise eyebrows in Washington. Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said recently that the airlines have done a poor job of managing workforces. She also said it’s possible the airlines have failed to live up to the original purpose of the bailout funds.
Now, airlines may start to see their demand suffer from surging COVID-19 cases because of the delta variant.
Thus far, though, airline officials are saying they haven’t seen a drop-off in bookings.