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Storms ground US air travellers as airlines cancel flights

NEW YORK (AP) – Tens of thousands of flyers had their travel plans upended on Friday after airlines cancelled about 1,400 United States (US) flights as thunderstorms hit the East Coast.

Another 6,300 flights had been delayed by early evening, according to tracking service FlightAware. It was the second straight day of major disruptions and the worst day for cancellations since mid-June.

The three major airports in the New York City area and Reagan National Airport outside Washington DC recorded the most cancellations.

American Airlines scrubbed about 250 flights, or seven per cent of its schedule. Republic Airways, which operates smaller planes for American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, cancelled a similar number, about 25 per cent of its flights.

Thunderstorms were stopping or delaying early-evening flights in New York, Boston, the Washington DC area, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Denver, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

About 1,200 US flights were cancelled on Thursday, 4.6 per cent of all those scheduled.

Travelers have been hit with widespread cancellations and delays this summer. Travel bounced back faster than expected – to about 88 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in July – and airlines weren’t able to increase staffing fast enough. They have been cutting back on schedules in an attempt to make remaining flights more reliable.

Airlines flying in the US had a bad June, cancelling more than 21,000 flights or 2.7 per cent, up from 1.8 per cent in June 2019, before airlines pushed workers to quit during the pandemic. The airlines did better in July, however, cancelling about 14,000 flights, or 1.8 per cent.

Passengers wait to catch their flight at the airport. PHOTO: AP