Holiday travelers face 1500 flight cancellations nationwide Saturday, as fares surge

As millions of travelers take to the skies this holiday weekend, a number of airlines are struggling with delays and cancellations.

Staff shortages, along with bad weather and air traffic control issues, forced around 1500 flight cancellations nationwide on Saturday. Delta passengers were impacted the most, as the airline canceled more than 250 flights, nearly 10 percent of its schedule. Flights out of Delta hub, Hartfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta were among the most severely impacted. 

"Definitely heard about a lot of delays, but luckily we didn’t encounter any of that," said Justin Kearney, who flew from Atlanta to SFO on Saturday with his girlfriend. The couple is planning to go wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma counties this week. 

Meantime, many travelers who didn't book their trips well in advance, were met with sticker shock.

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"Thankfully we’ve had it booked for probably a year now," said Kelly Dale who flew from Orlando to SFO with her family on Saturday. Dale says they're planning to spend Memorial Day weekend sightseeing in San Francisco before meeting friends in Alaska for a 10 day cruise. She says their friends booked the same trip last minute. 

"When our friends checked a couple of weeks ago it was double or triple the price," said Dale.

According to travel site Hopper, domestic airfares into the summer are averaging more than $400 dollars round trip, 24 percent higher than this time in 2019, and a 45 percent price increase from just one year ago. 

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"It makes sense, there’s a lot more demand," said Ben Zuraw who arrived at SFO from Greensboro on Saturday. "It’s definitely more expensive, but you know the planes are full, so supply and demand. The airlines don’t have enough staff, so I don’t really see it coming down too soon."  

The TSA is expecting around 2.1 million travelers a day to pass through their checkpoints this Memorial Day weekend, and by the summer, some forecasters expect the number of passengers to match or surpass pre-pandemic levels. 

Air travel for the holiday weekend is expected to peak again on Monday, and SFO is advising travelers to arrive at least two hours prior to their departure for domestic flights, and three hours prior to their departure for international flights.