The start of the summer travel season saw some stumbles...

The start of the summer travel season saw some stumbles as airlines canceled thousands of flights over Memorial Day weekend.  Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

The start of the summer travel season saw some stumbles as airlines canceled thousands of flights over Memorial Day weekend. Now travelers wonder: Was it a fluke or a preview of disruptions to come?

U.S. airlines canceled more than 2,800 flights between Thursday and Monday, or 2% of their schedules, the Associated Press reported. Delta made up about 800 of those cuts.

The cancellations came as travel continues to rebound from pandemic lows and carriers struggle with worker shortages.  Adam Gordon, a managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group, said, "The resiliency that we used to take for granted is no longer there."

Here are key questions and answers for travelers heading into the season.

What caused the issues?

The recipe is familiar: Take bad weather, mix in labor shortages and add a crush of travelers. An average of nearly 2.2 million people flew daily between Friday and Monday, according to the Transportation Security Administration, compared to nearly 1.8 million a day during the same four days last year.

Scott Keyes, founder of Scott's Cheap Flights, said airlines schedule their flights far in advance and guess what demand will look like and how many planes and employees they will need.


What does this mean for the rest of summer?

Experts say airlines are still going to be stretched — but they're also trying to be proactive to minimize last-minute cancellations.

"This summer will likely still be a challenging one as airlines try to adapt to this new normal and as travel demand recovers," Gordon said.

Flying on bigger airlines may offer better protection than taking budget carriers with fewer flights because rebooking options may be more plentiful, said Mike Boyd, aviation analyst and president of Boyd Group International.

Experts also recommend booking direct flights that depart early in the day. You will have fewer variables to deal with, and should something go wrong, you will have more rerouting options than if you were flying later.

What do I do if my flight is canceled or rescheduled?

Download your carrier's app, and check the day and night before to make sure your flight is still scheduled, experts say. Once you find out your travel plans have gone awry, you will want to act fast to find a new flight. Speed matters, as you will be competing with other travelers looking to do the same. 

Or you may just want to cancel and ask for a refund. Per Department of Transportation rules, if an airline significantly changes your flight and you want to cancel completely, the airline is required to give you a refund. (

What happens if my bag gets lost?

If you're one of the unlucky travelers with damaged, lost or delayed luggage, start by filing a claim at your airline's baggage desk at the airport.

Don't forget to provide your preferred delivery address, as many airlines will get your bag to you free. With most airlines, you should qualify for compensation if your bag gets lost for more than 24 hours.

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