The announcement came after a bout of extreme weather events caused thousands of flight cancellations earlier this month. The disruptions worsened problems already faced by airlines due to enduring pilot shortages.
“Delta people are working around the clock to rebuild Delta’s operation while making it as resilient as possible to minimize the ripple effect of disruptions,” Delta said. “Even so, some operational challenges are expected this holiday weekend. This unique waiver is being issued to give Delta customers greater flexibility to plan around busy travel times, weather forecasts and other variables without worrying about a potential cost to do so.”
Customers will be able to rebook trips made between July 1 and July 4, provided they travel between the same origin and destination. According to the company, waivers are typically granted only due to weather events that cause widespread travel disruptions.
In response to forecasted travel disruptions over the Fourth of July weekend, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told airline executives earlier this month to proactively minimize cancellations, according to a report from CNN. After carriers said that the Federal Aviation Administration was not sufficiently staffed to handle high flight traffic in and out of Florida, the agency announced it is “placing additional air traffic controllers at facilities in Florida to support our long-term strategy of staffing to increased traffic demand.”
Delta said it would handle traveler volumes “not seen since before the pandemic as people yearn to connect with the world” over the Fourth of July weekend.
Indeed, air travel fell from 927 million passengers in 2019 before plummeting to 369 million passengers in 2020, as COVID and lockdown measures gripped the airline industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In 2021, air travel partially rebounded to 674 million passengers.
Americans endured flight cancellations around Christmas and New Year’s Day because of winter weather conditions as well as staffing shortages brought by the Omicron variant of COVID. In the wake of those cancellations, several airlines multiplied pay for certain employees. While United Airlines offered three-and-a-half times pay for pilots, Spirit Airlines doubled pay for flight attendants.
In April, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ended the Biden administration’s airplane masking mandate, arguing that the policy “exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority, improperly invoked the good cause exception to notice and comment rulemaking, and failed to adequately explain its decisions.” In response, major American airlines quickly dropped their masking mandates.
“Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and onboard aircraft,” Delta said at the time. “Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose. Wearing a well-fitting mask protects the wearer, even if others around them are not wearing masks.”
Earlier this month, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice asked a federal judge to overturn Mizelle’s ruling. “None of the district court’s quarrels with the CDC order comes close to showing that the CDC has acted outside the ‘zone of reasonableness,’” the agency said.