United flight cuts take effect at Newark Airport as July 4 holiday travel kicks off

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Friday, July 1, 2022
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Millions are taking to the skies this holiday weekend, but they are encountering widespread flight cancelations.

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Millions are taking to the skies this holiday weekend, but they are encountering widespread flight cancelations.

United Airlines cut 50 daily flights from its domestic schedule at Newark Liberty International Airport beginning Friday.

The cuts -- about 12% of United flights in Newark -- will last the rest of the summer. United is the dominant airline at Newark.

United's Chief Operations Officer, Jon Roitman, told employees that the airline has enough planes, pilots and other workers to run its Newark schedule, but cutting flights "should help minimize excessive delays and improve on-time performance."

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The 4th of July holiday getaway is well underway, but thousands of flight cancelations and delays mean big crowds and big frustrations.

"They canceled our flight an hour before we were supposed to depart," one customer said.

The surging number of travelers and pandemic-related staffing shortages have airlines struggling to keep planes taking off.

Delta pilots hit the picket lines Thursday at JFK and other airports around the country, demanding better pay and better schedules.

"We've now flown more overtime in the first six months of the year than we did in 2018 and 2019 combined," Delta pilot David Alder said. "And those years were record years for the airline industry."

United got a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to reduce flights at Newark, which is among the nation's busiest airports and often has the highest number of flight delays.

United CEO Scott Kirby has accused other airlines -- Spirit and JetBlue in particular -- of operating more flights than allowed under federal rules, and said FAA has "just let people brazenly break the rules."

United's cuts at Newark arrive as airline industry faces more scrutiny over widespread delays and cancellations this summer. Bad weather and staffing shortages contributed to problems over both the Memorial Day and Juneteenth holiday weekends.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently held a virtual meeting with airline leaders and later threatened to sanction airlines if they fail to meet consumer-protection standards.

Several airlines have trimmed summer schedules in an effort to improve reliability of the remaining flights.

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TSA Administrator David Pekoske said his agency is staffed for the holiday with 1,000 workers on standby if needed.

"We had last Sunday, the highest number of passengers since the pandemic," he said. "I expect that we're going to see something similar, ballpark, to last week."

A record number of Americans may also be hitting the road. At least gas prices are down, dropping 9 cents in the last week..

The national average for gas is $4.85.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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