Labor Day weekend air travel surpasses 2019 levels as airlines cap a rocky summer

Travel

Reagan National Airport near Washington D.C.
Leslie Josephs | CNBC

The rocky summer travel season ended on a high note during Labor Day weekend with a surge in air travelers and relatively smooth operations across the U.S., according to data released on Tuesday.

The Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 8.76 million people from Friday through Monday, surpassing pre-pandemic levels of the same weekend in 2019, when it screened 8.6 million people.

It was the first holiday weekend since the pandemic began that TSA screenings topped 2019 tallies, a milestone in air travel’s bumpy recovery. Airlines had reduced their schedules this summer to help stop spiraling flight delays as they grappled with labor shortages.

Flight disruptions over the popular travel weekend were also below recent trends, helped by decent weather.

U.S. airlines canceled just 0.6% of the more than 90,000 flights they scheduled, while 16% were delayed, according to FlightAware. That compares with 2.1% of U.S. carriers’ flights canceled between May 27, the Friday before Memorial Day, through Labor Day. More than 22% of flights were delayed during that period.

Last Thursday, the Transportation Department launched a new dashboard that lists what passengers are entitled to if their flight is canceled or delayed.

Executives from major U.S. carriers including United and American are expected to provide outlooks for the fall and the usually busy year-end holiday season during an industry conference that begins Wednesday.

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