ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines is taking extra steps to try to alleviate flight disruptions ahead of what's expected to be an incredibly busy Fourth of July travel weekend.
On Tuesday, Delta issued a systemwide fare difference travel waiver from July 1-4, meaning customers planning to travel on these dates can rebook their flights before or after the holiday weekend with no fare differences or change fees.
Rebooked flights need to happen by July 8, 2022 and the trips need to be between the same origin and destination as the original flights.
In a statement on its website, Delta said the company is "working around the clock to rebuild Delta’s operation while making it as resilient as possible to minimize the ripple effect of disruptions." The airline said it expects to deal with passenger volumes on July 4 weekend not seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic put a major damper on air travel.
Kyle Potter, executive editor of Minnesota-based Thrifty Traveler, said he's never seen an airline offer such a waiver, outside of perhaps a specific storm event.
"This is unprecedented," Potter said. "I think Delta hopes this is kind of a release valve, to decrease some of the pressure that they're under to carry all these passengers, in hopes it gives them a little extra breathing room to recover."
As of Thursday morning, Thrifty Traveler reported that hundreds of Delta flights still don't have assigned pilots, according to an airline employee familiar with internal scheduling. The problems primarily impact Delta's Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 fleets.
Delta waivers are usually only issued for limited geographic areas in the event of weather events that cause widespread flight disruptions. Tuesday's surprise move underscores the ongoing stress impacting the airline industry. For weeks, flight delays and cancellations have impacted thousands of flights across the country.
Earlier this month, Minnesotans traveling home from Vancouver, British Columbia were left stranded after Twin Cities-based Sun Country canceled their return flight.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Delta was responsible for the most cancellations, with more than 800 flights canceled over five days. Earlier this month, Delta said it was reducing cancellations by hiring more pilots and flight attendants and scheduling crews to quickly adjust to disruptions.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the department could enforce additional actions against airlines that fail to live up to consumer-protection standards.
Meanwhile, Delta pilots plan to picket at airports across the country on Thursday to protest protracted contract negotiations, including Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.
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