Americans are hitting the roads and skies in numbers not seen since before the pandemic to celebrate the July 4 holiday weekend.
The mass travel for the holiday, also known as Independence Day, is testing airlines and airports, which are struggling to keep up with demand.
Hundreds of flights were canceled on Friday and thousands more were delayed, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.
More than 2.4 million travelers started the weekend early by passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. That surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2019 and was 13.8% higher than the number of travelers last year, according to TSA data.
Car travel should also be heavy.
Automotive membership group, AAA, predicts 47.9million people will drive 50 miles or more from home over the holiday weekend. That’s slightly less than the number of travelers in 2019, but that’s despite near-record gas prices.
The July 4 holiday last year was supposed to coincide with a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, but new outbreaks of the virus at that time put a damper on celebrations in some places.
This year, most places in America have lifted COVID restrictions and federal airline regulations allow maskless travel.
The rise in travel and vacations has left airlines struggling to keep up. Many encouraged their workers to quit or retire early at the start of the pandemic, when travel all but came to a standstill. Now they are struggling to hire and train new workers, and many airlines have cut their summer hours in an attempt to avoid the chaos of last-minute flight cancellations.
About 3.55 million Americans are expected to fly this holiday weekend, AAA said.
While travel is heavy during the July 4 holiday, many other Americans are staying home and enjoying barbecues, picnics and neighborhood parades.
The holiday celebrates the country’s independence from Britain on July 4, 1776, when delegates from the 13 American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the severance of ties with Britain.
Fireworks are a hallmark of Independence Day celebrations, with thousands of communities across the country hosting annual displays, including one of the largest in Washington, the nation’s capital.
Each state has its own laws governing the sale and use of fireworks, but many also allow individuals to set off fireworks in their own backyards.
Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.