A Texas meteorologist was stuck in Milwaukee and Chicago for two full days after his flights back home were canceled a total of six times as airports around the United States enter their fourth day of travel misery due to storms and pandemic era-related staff shortages.
In a series of tweets over the weekend, Shel Winkley, a meteorologist for KBTX News, shared how he struggled to arrive at – and later get home from – an American Meteorological Society Broadcast Conference in Milwaukee.
The saga began for him on Monday when he first faced a four-hour delay from Dallas-Fort Worth to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.
In a series of tweets over the weekend, Shel Winkley (pictured napping at the airport) a meteorologist for KBTX News, shared how he struggled to arrive at – and later get home from – an American Meteorological Society Broadcast Conference in Milwaukee.
Massive flight delays and cancelations continued for a fourth day on Sunday
After he finally arrived in the area, he said, a large storm was slamming Milwaukee, and the captain had to circle around the tarmac several times – until eventually he announced: ‘We don’t have enough gas, we’re heading for Madison.’
They then sat on the tarmac in Madison, Wisconsin for a while as they waited for the storms to pass, and he finally arrived at Milwaukee at 7pm, but once again had to wait because his luggage was put on a later flight.
Winkley was originally expected to arrive in the area at 12.40pm, he wrote.
That would have been enough for the traveling meteorologist, but as he tried to head home on Friday, his flight scheduled to leave at 5.30pm starts getting pushed back to 7pm.
Soon, the plane arrived on the tarmac, he said, and people started to deplane, but they are not allowed to get on.
The captain later explained: ‘There’s a malfunction, I don’t feel comfortable flying the plane.’
His flight was then delayed until 8.30am, and Winkley got a hotel room, but at 12am he received a push notification that the flight is once again delayed until 11.45am.
So on Saturday morning, he tweeted that he saw the plane parked at the gate at the Milwaukee airport, but officials announced it would be another four to five hours to install a new part on the plane – a control valve, which he wrote ‘controls how fast the plane goes.’
At that point, he said, American Airline officials offered the passengers a bus to the Chicago O’Hare airport – about an hour and a half away.
Two hours after arriving, Winkley wrote, the plane arrived – but was delayed further because of mechanical issues.
‘Meanwhile, those that were left waiting at [Milwaukee] on the original flight are about to take off,’ he wrote. ‘@AmericanAir: This isn’t cute anymore.’
Winkley was finally able to get on the plane, he said, but maintenance crews soon returned to ‘fix something in the cockpit.’
After about an hour, the maintenance crews were unable to fix the problem, and they were asked to deplane.
At the same time, though, Winkley wrote, those who waited it out at Milwaukee had reached Dallas-Fort Worth.
By 11.09pm, another flight he was booked on was canceled by American Airlines ‘once again leaving us stranded for the night,’ and at that point he and his crew decided to just take a sunrise flight to Austin.
They finally arrived on Texas soil mid-Sunday morning, as passengers around the country continued to face massive delays and cancelations for Father’s Day weekend.
In a series of tweets, Shel Winkley, a meteorologist for KBTX News, shared how he struggled to arrive at – and later get home from – an American Meteorological Society Broadcast Conference in Milwaukee
On Sunday, more than 700 flights were canceled coming into or departing from the United States, according to Flight Aware, and over 1,000 were delayed.
Delta fared the worst of the American airlines, with 6 percent of its total flights canceled on Sunday, and United Airlines saw 3 percent of its flights canceled and 4 percent delayed.
For American Airlines, which Winkley was dealing with over the weekend, 5 percent of its flights were delayed on Sunday.
Among the worst hit airports were Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, Georgia; John F Kennedy Airport in New York City and the Chicago O’Hare airport.
The travel anguish comes after a total of 8,900 delays and 1,470 cancelation thwarted US travels on Friday and more than 1,700 were canceled on Thursday amid storms in the southeast and northeast.
Since then, there have been more than 4,000 flights canceled across the United States.
Meanwhile, more than 2.4 million people traveled through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.
And so far in June, FOX 5 reports, more than 2.2 million travelers a day have gone through security checkpoints at US airports – up 22 percent from the same time one year ago, but still down 13 percent from the same time before the pandemic.
The delays are partially driven by on-going storms throughout the U.S. after a heat dome settled over the Midwest and South last week, creating the perfect conditions for surprise tornadoes and showers.
As of Sunday morning, more than 700 flights were canceled coming into or departing from the United States, according to Flight Aware , and over 1,000 flights coming into or out of the United States were delayed
A Transportation Security Administration checkpoint sign showed that it would take about an hour and a half to get through on Sunday
For disabled U.S. Army veteran Joe Reis told 11 Alive that the delays and cancellations have kept him from returning home from his honeymoon and accessing the charger for his hearing aids, which is in his hold bag.
‘Instead of it being a happy honeymoon, it became a very miserable plane ride waiting for this hell hole to let us finally leave,’ Reis said, adding that he had to sleep on the floor on Saturday. ‘I have to rely on hearing aids, and so my charging port is actually in my bag in Omaha.’
New mother Brooke Osborne echoed the complaints, saying that she was running out of diapers and formula for her 11-month-old daughter, Carson.
‘We’ve just been giving her more food throughout the day and less bottles since all of her formula is in our checked bag, which is in Omaha,’ she told the local outlet.
Rachel England, another passenger who was stuck waiting for her flight to Omaha, said she had been stranded in Atlanta since Friday.
‘We’ve been there since like 6:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m., the night before,’ England told 11 Alive on Saturday.
‘I told [Delta], ‘This is on you. You guys get me the reimbursement for the hotel,” she added. ‘I made sure to get flight insurance just in case something like this happens.’
In a statement about the delays and cancellations, Delta said: ‘We apologize for any inconvenience and delay customers have experienced as a result of issues primarily driven by weather, ATC, and crew resources.
‘Delta people continue working hard to deliver the operations customers have come to expect from us, and we are working quickly to resolve travel issues and get customers to their destination.’
U.S. Army veteran Joe Reis (left) and new mother Brook Osborne (right) said they were stuck at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport for 24 hours on Saturday, with their bags containing essential equipment waiting for them in Omaha, Nebraska
Osborne said she was running out of diapers and formula for her 11-month-old daughter
The ongoing trends of frustrated travelers and high number of cancellations pushed Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to tell airline executives to clean up their act and avoid another flying catastrophe before July 4.
Buttigieg, alongside millions of other travelers, are tired of what feels like constant cancellations without so much as an apology from the airlines.
The father-of-two has given airline executives a short two-week period to clean up the mess and guarantee travelers can enjoy a patriotic weekend and summer without the airport stress.
He’s asked them to ‘stress-test’ operations ahead of the next big holiday – meaning travel firms could ultimately end up cutting more flights if they realize they’ll have insufficient resources to operate them.
‘At the end of the day, they’ve got to deliver,’ Buttigieg told the Today Show. The Democrat met with top airlines executives on Thursday to warn them to avoid the Memorial Day disaster, where 2,700 flights were canceled.
On Friday, Buttigieg tweeted: ‘Air travelers should be able to expect reliable service as demand returns to levels not seen since before the pandemic.’
Transportation Pete Buttigieg called on airlines to brace themselves and prepare for the hectic July 4 weekend and said travelers should expect more reliable service by then
The number of travelers is surging back to pre-pandemic levels. This chart shows the same week over the last three years
A recent survey by the US Travel Association found than one in ten can’t afford to go on a road trip this year because of the increased cost and gas isn’t the only thing that’s more expensive
Travelers should expect to embrace a seemingly difficult travel season as not only are there less pilots in the cockpit, but less TSA agents screaming to take laptops out of backpacks.
Pre-pandemic, there were roughly 50,000 TSA agents employees, but in the last two years, that number has dipped to 46,000.
Many TSA checkpoints were closed during the height of the pandemic in 2020 – creating bottlenecks at already-crowded ports.
On top of that, TSA lost an abundance of workers due to the vaccine mandate last year. Official numbers have not been released for how many agents were lost to other jobs during the pandemic, but the agency is recruiting across the country.