October 7, 2022

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Holiday travel rises at Tulsa International Airport; cancellations cause trouble for some nationally | Local Business News

Tulsa International Airport (TUL) saw its passenger numbers over the Memorial Day weekend jump 15% over the previous year.

A total of 24,662 people went through the airport’s checkpoint Thursday through Monday, according to Andrew Pierini, TUL’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

Compared to Memorial Day 2019, which was before the COVID-19 outbreak, TUL’s levels in ’22 were down 6%, Pierini said.

“Our seat capacity for 2022 Memorial Day was down 7% compared to 2019,” he wrote in an email. “So, having passengers only down 6% shows us that we had stronger load factors this year compared to 2019, but on slightly lower seat capacity levels.”

Nationally, the unofficial start of summer offered a troubling glimpse of what lies ahead for travelers during the peak vacation season.

U.S. airlines canceled more than 2,800 flights from Thursday through Monday, or about 2% of their schedules, according to tracking service FlightAware.

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Delta Air Lines, usually among the top performers, had the worst record among major carriers with more than 800 canceled flights over the five-day span.

“This was a chance for airlines to show that last summer’s delays would not be repeated this summer, and yet, it was not to be,” said Helane Becker, an analyst for banking firm Cowen, who blamed the disruptions on bad weather, air traffic control delays, airline crew members calling in sick and long security lines at some airports.

“We expect a busy summer, and are concerned about the industry’s ability to handle the demand.”

The good news was that cancellations were down sharply on Tuesday. FlightAware reported only about 60 by early afternoon on the East Coast.

TUL does not track airline operations and does not have figures on Tulsa flights that are canceled.

Various forecasts of high numbers of travelers over the weekend proved to be accurate. The Transportation Security Administration reported screening more than 11 million people at airport checkpoints from Thursday through Monday.

That was down 9% from the same days in 2019, but an increase of almost 25% over last year. Crowds of just under 2.4 million on both Thursday and Friday nearly matched the pandemic high set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

Delta, when asked to comment Tuesday about its weekend troubles, pointed to a statement it issued last week. The Atlanta airline said it was being challenged by several factors including rising COVID-19 cases among workers, and it trimmed its July and August schedules in an effort to improve reliability.