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Airline flight cancellations ease after 4th of July travel chaos

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Yahoo Finance Live anchors recap U.S. airline cancellations since the start of the Fourth of July weekend.

Video transcript

- Switching gears here, number three, after a weekend of travel chaos and mass cancellations, US airline disruptions are beginning to ease again. There were less than 50 cancellations each yesterday for United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta. According to FlightAware, this comes after airlines cancelled or delayed over 16,000 domestic flights since the start of the Fourth of July, with American Airlines and Delta faring the worst, both cutting 3% of their schedule. And look, Brad, we've been talking at length for months about a potential recession, and you name it.

But it looks to be that we had a strong July 4 travel week, and the airlines were able to handle it. And this comes against the backdrop of the cost to travel has gone through the roof, or to use the corny pun, it has flat out soared. I'm looking at some data from the folks at Hopper.

It cost $437 per around trip ticket on average this July 4 weekend. That is up 45% versus 2019. A round trip ticket, $1,200 up 31% versus 2019. And by and large, you saw the consumers still out there flying despite these high costs.

- Yeah, and some of those prices, they were not feasible for consumers. That pushed them into renting an automobile and trying to drive, and that really got us back into the conversation that we had with Triple-A last week around how many people were really looking to instead take to the road because of the airline fares being too high. But since we're on the topic of the flight disruptions and the traveler throughput that you mentioned as well, I thought it was remarkable compared to the pre-COVID kind of four day window, if you will, the first, second, third, and fourth, the number of travelers that we saw in 2022. 8.8 million travelers took to the skies or at least went through a TSA travel checkpoint.

You compare that to a pre-pandemic era of 2019-- 10 million travelers over that four day period. And so roughly 87% is where we are at in that kind of comparison to pre-pandemic times. And that's continued to improve over the past two years we do know.

But at this time, it's still going to come back to how many pilots are available to make sure that these routes are still able to take place. And then additionally, how does that start to also bring down some of the fare prices if you do have more pilots available, if you do have more of the route capacity? How does that capacity also kind of alleviate some of the pricing pressures that consumers are facing when they look to take to the skies?

And this is something that's going to take place. This pilot shortage, it's hitting airlines, and it's going to continue to, I think for the near future even out into next year as more pilots are starting to get some of the number of hours that are necessary to be logged even for them to be able to become a captain or just a pilot for one of the commercial airliners out there. That's significant. That's a backlog that needs to be filled essentially here within the broader employment situation in order for us to see that kind of alleviated as well.

- Yeah, in addition to pilot cost, inflation, like you referenced, Brad, the next catalyst for this entire space is probably coming in the next week or week and a half or so. A lot of these airlines will be giving pre-announcements or pre-announcements on their second quarter results. That is expected to come, and you have to wonder.

Well, what is the next-- is there a positive catalyst inside the results? You still have fuel prices very high. You have cost for workers, like you mentioned, very high. You have demand that is now past its peak after July 4 weekend. What's positive?

- Right, and are consumers, leisure travelers, still spending higher? Are they still trading up for that flight experience even in the face of some of these higher prices? That's what we were hearing from airlines during the first quarter. We'll see if the second quarter is a much different equation there once we hear more from those companies.

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