Memorial Day Travel Chaos as Over 3,000 Flights Canceled or Delayed

Passengers are braced for travel chaos today, Monday, as they head home after the Memorial Day weekend, with more than 3,000 flights globally being held up or canceled.

More than 39.2 million Americans are forecast to be traveling—by car, air, or other forms of transport, such as buses and trains—due to the holiday weekend, according to AAA.

That is an increase of 8.3 percent from 2021, and puts travel volumes in line with pre-pandemic figures. The numbers suggest that Americans are increasingly confident about traveling again, despite increased costs.

However, plane tracking website Flight Aware reported that more than 3,000 flights around the world have been held or canceled so far on Monday, with 2,430 planes delayed and 841 canceled entirely.

plane flying overhead
Passengers are braced for travel chaos today as they head home from the Memorial Day weekend holiday. Pictured: An aircraft flying overhead in Raleigh, North Carolina. Getty Images

In terms of flights within the U.S., or heading into or out of the country, some 340 planes have been delayed while 241 have been canceled.

The unwelcome news came just hours into the new day, with the stats being reported at just 4:15 a.m. and a long day of travel still ahead for many.

Passengers will hope not to be as unlucky as those traveling on Sunday, who faced an eye-watering 16,425 delays and 1,6,41 cancellations internationally, according to Flight Aware. The U.S. itself was particularly badly affected with 4,922 flights delayed, and 546 cancellations within, into, or out of the U.S.

Furious passengers tweeted their woes from airport lounges.

One posted video footage on Sunday of a young woman sobbing on the floor by an airline desk inside a terminal, claiming her flight had been canceled ahead of a trip to Cancun in Mexico with friends on her birthday.

While another passenger wrote: "So our flight from Savannah to Miami has just been canceled out of the blue not other flights available on the day wtf do we do."

And a third posted: "Instead of canceling the flight hours ago, @delta had me waiting from 3:50pm till 12:04am just to tell me my flight was canceled."

Newsweek reached out to Delta about allegations it kept travelers hanging around before canceling flights. Spokesperson Grant Myatt told Newsweek: "We are enacting cancelations at least 24 hours in advance of departure time wherever possible. Delta notifies customers through Fly Delta App notifications, email and text message, and automatically rebooks them on the next best available option to their final destination."

In response to queries about what caused the amount of delays and cancelations over the weekend, Delta's Chief Customer Experience Officer Allison Ausband said: "More than any time in our history, the various factors currently impacting our operation—weather and air traffic control, vendor staffing, increased COVID case rates contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups—are resulting in an operation that isn't consistently up to the standards Delta has set for the industry in recent years. We deeply appreciate the energy and efforts of our people and the confidence of our customers as we adapt and pivot to ensure we provide the airline-of-choice experience we're so proud to be known for."

Newsweek also queried the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the industry's performance over the weekend. But spokesperson Donnell Evans simply suggested the season is notorious for being affected by bad weather. He added the FAA has plans to "support the summer travel season amid new demand, more bad weather and increased use of the nation's airspace."

The busiest time to travel by air was on Thursday, May 26, at the start of the long weekend, AAA said, who forecast that Monday would be much lighter comparatively speaking.

Flyers should always keep up-to-date with the latest information from their own airlines, but can also check the status of their flight here.

The website's live tracker "misery map" of the U.S. showed Los Angeles' airport, LAX, in California, was the worst hit on Monday as of 4:15 a.m. EDT, with a string of flights delayed or canceled.

A closer look at LAX's flights that had been scheduled across the whole day showed that seven outbound flights are being reported as canceled so far, including two flying to Miami, Florida, in the early hours (flights AAL362 and AAL529).

Planes to other locations later on have also been dropped, including flights DAL2481 and DAL1101 bound for New Orleans International in Louisiana, flight AAY1478 bound for Shreveport Regional in Louisiana, flight AAY1433 bound for Rogue Valley International in Oregon, and flight DAL403/DL403 which had been bound for Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday at 23:45 p.m. PDT.

The holiday coincided with British school vacations, which saw airport chaos in the U.K. amid reports of families sleeping on the floor inside terminals, British Airways passengers asked to drop their bags off a day early, and lines snaking far outside of the airport buildings.

However, the spike in traveler numbers reported by AAA across all forms of transport in the U.S. means that travel misery is not just set to be confined to the air.

AAA forecast that some 3.1 million people would fly this Memorial Day holiday, and 1.3 million would use other forms of transport—but those numbers are dwarfed by the 34.9 million who are estimated to drive to and from their holiday destinations.

The organization advised drivers to allow plenty of time for their journeys and check the traffic on their routes online before they set off.

Newsweek also queried the Federal Aviation Administration about the industry's performance over the weekend. But spokesperson Donnell Evans simply suggested the season is notorious for being affected by bad weather. He added the FAA has plans to "support the summer travel season amid new demand, more bad weather and increased use of the nation's airspace."