Jun 30, 2022 - Economy

July 4th weekend flight cancellations fueling road trips

Illustration of a board of cancelled departures, with one reading "let's just drive."

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

This Independence Day weekend is set to be the second busiest for travel since 2000 with a record number of Americans planning to hit the road, according to AAA's holiday travel forecast.

The big picture: Historically high gas prices aren’t expected to stop more Americans from driving, and the holiday weekend road trip is still on for more than 52% of consumers surveyed by The Vacationer.

Driving the news: Recent flight delays and cancellations could be fueling the 0.4% increase in drivers, AAA said, estimating the share of people traveling by air over the holiday weekend will be the lowest since 2011.

  • Airlines already know Fourth of July weekend travel will be a mess, Axios' Joann Muller writes, noting Delta is trying to get customers to rejigger their plans by offering free rebooking to spread out the crush of holiday travel.

What they’re saying: “There is a lot of pent-up COVID-19 demand to travel, so many people are still going to do it on the Fourth of July and this summer despite inflation and gas prices," Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer, told Axios.

  • “Driving offers a flexibility that flying does not, and airfare prices are currently outpacing inflation,” said Jones, an assistant professor of mathematics at Rowan College South Jersey.
  • "People are ready for a break and despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much-needed vacation," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, in a statement.

Gas prices drop ahead of holiday weekend

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has decreased by four cents since Monday to $4.85, AAA said Thursday.

  • Declining oil prices and decreased demand have pushed pump prices lower and as "these trends continue, drivers will likely continue to see relief at the pump," AAA notes.
  • The five states with the largest decreases in their gas price averages are: Wisconsin (−14 cents), Delaware (−14 cents), Indiana (−13 cents), Florida (−13 cents) and Ohio (−13 cents).

Best time to travel July 4th weekend

Friday, July 1 is expected to be the busiest day for air travel for the holiday weekend, according to AAA.

  • For those driving, Thursday and Friday are anticipated to be peak traffic days, per AAA.
  • July 4 is expected to be the lightest for air travel.

By the numbers: So far, Sunday, June 26 was the busiest air travel day of the year, according to the TSA.

Flashback: Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed during the Juneteenth and Father’s Day holiday weekend, Axios’ Rebecca Falconer reports.

  • Memorial Day weekend also was hit with cancellations because of staff shortages and severe weather.

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