Airlines in the United States have cancelled almost 1,500 flights as the peak summer vacation season approaches, making it one of the worst days for travel ever. More than one-third of all flights at LaGuardia Airport in New York were cancelled, while more than one-fourth of planes were diverted to nearby Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey, according to flight tracking firm FlightAware.
The cancellations come just over three weeks after airlines kicked off the summer travel season by cancelling over 2,800 flights over Memorial Day weekend.
They occurred during a virtual discussion between airline CEOs and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, indicating the Biden administration's anxiety about clogged airports and disgruntled passengers this summer.
"I let them know that this is a moment when we are really counting on them to deliver reliably for the travelling public," Buttigieg told NBC News.
In a statement, Nicholas Calio, the head of trade group Airlines for America, said that industry leaders "valued the opportunity to speak with Buttigieg and discuss our shared commitment to prioritising the safety and security of all travellers."
Airlines are experiencing labour shortages, particularly among pilots, which are limiting their capacity to execute all of their scheduled flights. Delta, American, and Southwest pilot unions have complained that their airlines were too tardy in replacing pilots who retired or took leave during the early stages of the pandemic.