Labor Day travel is expected to be near pre-pandemic levels

CHICAGO (NewsNation) – Amid months of mass flight cancellations and delays, the number of Americans traveling for Labor Day is expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels.

Expected 137 million Americans is expected to hit highways, byways and airways this weekend, according to AAA.

Domestic travel is up 20% compared to 2019, according to Hopper, but the headaches that plagued travelers early in the summer remain.

“Get that line – when you’re in line, pick up the phone, get an airline representative on the phone or a travel agent on the phone to help you right away. You never know who you’re going to get first, the sooner you get a seat on the next flight,” says Abby Estevez, travel advisor.

But help for vacationers can be on the way this weekend travel-heavy. Department of Transportation has been launched a customer service dashboard on Thursday.

The dashboard is part of an extended pressure campaign from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has publicly challenged major carriers to improve service and transparency after a summer marred by flight cancellations and delays. As summer travel returns to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels, airlines are struggling to keep up, with mass cancellations to blame. lack of staff, in particular among the pilots.

The dashboard compares all major domestic airline policies on issues such as offering meals for delays of more than three hours and offering to rebook flights on the same or different airlines at no extra charge.

It focuses on so-called “controlled” cancellations or delays, meaning caused by mechanical problems, staff shortages or delays in cleaning, refueling or baggage handling. Delays or cancellations caused by weather or safety issues do not count.

Buttigieg asked airlines to, at a minimum, provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more, and lodging for anyone who had to wait overnight due to delays under the airline’s control.

The Department of Transportation hopes that the dashboard will encourage competition among airlines to offer the best transparency and best protection for customers.

So far this year, airlines have canceled about 146,000 flights, or 2.6% of all flights, and nearly 1.3 million flights have been delayed, according to tracking service FlightAware. The cancellation rate is up by about a third from the same period in 2019, before the pandemic, and the delay rate is up by almost a quarter.

Federal officials blamed much of the disruption on a lack of employees at airlines, which pushed employees out after the pandemic began. Airlines have fought back by blaming staffing problems at the Federal Aviation Administration, which uses air traffic controllers.

Meanwhile, if you plan to hit the road, expect to pay less at the pump. Gas buddy reports that the average price of gas is $3.89 per gallon, and it will continue to drop. You can save by shopping with resources like the Gas Buddy app.

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