Thousands of US flights canceled or delayed after one of the worst summer air travel days

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Thousands of US flights canceled or delayed after one of the worst summer air travel days

More than 1,300 U.S. flights were canceled as of 5 p.m. ET Friday with over 5,000 more posting delays, according to FlightAware, which tracks flights in real time.

The headaches come on the heels of one of the worst travel days yet as the peak summer vacation season heats up. More than1,750 U.S. flights were canceled Thursday.

Nationwide, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have the most cancellations so far, with their schedules reduced by 8% and 7%, respectively, Friday. Those numbers do not include flights on their regional affiliates, which operate as American Eagle and Delta Connection.

“The vast majority of that is weather-related,” said Curtis Blessing, spokesman for American Airlines. He noted that weather in the Miami area was also contributing to delays for the carrier on Friday morning.

Airlines kicked off the busy summer travel season by canceling about 2,800 flights in a five-day stretch around the Memorial Day holiday weekend, marking the start of what’s likely to be a tough summer for the nation’s air passengers.

Thursday and Friday’s issues come in the wake of a virtual meeting between airline CEOs and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — a sign of the Biden administration’s concern about the prospect of snarled airports and unhappy travelers this summer.

“I let them know that this is a moment when we are really counting on them to deliver reliably for the traveling public,” Buttigieg told NBC News.

If your flight is canceled, the U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines to rebook you on their next available service with space. If that will not work for you, the carrier is required to offer you a refund, even if you bought a nonrefundable ticket.

In the event of a delay, an airline’s responsibility is a little less clear. DOT does require compensation for “significant delays” but has no official definition for what counts as “significant.”

Many airlines updated their policies during the pandemic to give travelers more flexibility in rebooking or altering plans. Delta Air Lines, for example, automatically rebooks passengers whose flights were canceled and sends them their new itineraries via email, text and the Fly Delta App. Customers are free to change their rebooked flight online or via Delta’s digital messaging platform if the new itinerary doesn’t work.

So far, airlines are not issuing preemptive change fee waivers in response to Friday’s cancellations, but affected passengers will still have options to rebook.