Busy 4th of July travel weekend kicks off with hundreds of delayed flights in Orlando

There have been hundreds of delayed flights at Orlando International Airport to kick off the busy Fourth of July travel weekend.

As of Friday night, there were around 350 delayed flights at Orlando International Airport. The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority says most of the delays have been due to lightning and weather, but other things can factor in like mechanical issues, crew rotations, and unruly passengers.

Some people decided to book their flights home from Orlando earlier knowing there could be potential for delays and cancelations.

"We actually decided to fly back earlier to avoid the rush and delays," one passenger said.

Jenn Lee with Travel Planners International says staffing shortages are a big part of the issue. She said when the pandemic hit, airport staff, Transportation Security Administration workers, airline workers, and pilots were laid off, and it's been hard to get people back. And in Central Florida, the weather makes it worse.

"It’s a real problem," said Lee. "And you combine it with the rain and weather, and it puts everyone behind."

Lee says people have been offered anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars to change their flights on overbooked planes. 

"We’ve heard crazy [stories] $1,000, $10,000, to just get off the plane to just volunteer to try to get more people, home or to their destinations," said Lee. "It wouldn’t surprise me if you heard of people booking flights in hopes that they’d get bumped off and get some cash. And it’s highly likely. It’s our Fourth of July weekend, and it’s going to be very busy out there."

Lee is recommending booking your flight two days before your upcoming event, like a wedding or cruise, if you can, because there's a high chance you'll face delays.

"Our travel advisors are telling people to book two days prior to what they think they may need. And to be ready to be delayed a whole day afterward," said Lee.