Skip to content

Labor Day travel far smoother than earlier summer holiday weekends

September 5 2022
5 min read
iah labor day
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

This story was updated to reflect new data from the TSA

After a summer defined as much by flight cancellations and delays as the trips travelers finally were able to take, travel on the season’s final major holiday weekend went off with comparable ease, even as terminals and planes saw some of their busiest days of the year.

The weekend included far fewer disruptions on the five largest U.S. airlines than occurred during the summer’s earlier holiday weekends around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Between Thursday and Sunday afternoon, there were 76% fewer flights canceled on American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines compared to the same travel days leading into the Fourth of July, according to data from FlightAware. Additionally, there were 81% fewer cancellations on those five carriers compared to that same travel period leading into Memorial Day.

With Labor Day weekend often considered the unofficial end to the summer travel period, it marked a pleasant surprise during a season that too often saw itineraries upended as airlines tried to meet demand not seen in years while contending with staffing shortages, air traffic control delays and always-pesky summer thunderstorms.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

A line of planes waiting to take off at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) in August 2022. SEAN CUDAHY/THE POINTS GUY

Summer travel season finishes with strong demand

Even as passenger traffic dipped in the final days of August, demand came roaring back for the holiday weekend. Despite initial TSA data indicating a slower weekend for travel compared to Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, the agency corrected its final tally for the weekend to show just how busy things were.

Agents screened 2,479,329 passengers on Friday, the busiest travel day. That was the second busiest day for air travel since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Labor Day weekend passenger traffic between Thursday and Monday only barely trailed levels seen during the equivalent time period for Memorial Day and Fourth of July this year.

Labor Day weekend was also the first time, since the start of the pandemic, that a holiday's travel exceeded 2019 levels, the TSA noted Tuesday.

It's safe to say the demand seen throughout the summer did not disappear during the season's final major holiday weekend, despite the rush of passengers lightening a bit in the days leading up to the weekend as many school districts returned to session and travelers began getting back to post-summer routines. Tuesday, Aug. 30, was the lightest day for air travel since March 29.

Travelers check in at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston. BRANDON BELL/GETTY IMAGES

What's next for air travel?

Despite passenger demand at nearly the same level as the season's earlier holiday weekends, airlines saw major improvement.

Take Delta, for instance. On the Friday leading into Memorial Day weekend, the Atlanta-based carrier canceled 211 flights. The airline improved leading into the Fourth of July, with 117 cancellations on the busy Friday ahead of Independence Day. Leading into this Labor Day weekend, Delta canceled just five flights on Friday.

Airlines are flying thinner schedules as well. Numerous carriers have reduced schedules in an effort to improve reliability and ensure they’re flying a manageable number of routes. One such reduction for American Airlines will take effect in the coming days.

It comes as carriers have faced intense scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Remember, it was the disruptions during the season’s first holiday weekend that saw Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg meet with airline executives, calling for increased transparency and reliability.

Then, just last week, TPG reported on the department’s new website that lays out the rights passengers have when facing major disruptions.

As summer turns to fall, it will be worth watching just how airlines continue to rebound from a rocky summer, how high demand for travel remains after several busy months and whether airfare continues to drop following some recent encouraging signs, leading to opportunities for great autumn travel deals.

Bottom line

A huge rush of passengers filling airports for Labor Day weekend ensured the unofficial end to summer kept with the season's trend: heavy demand. Compared to Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, though, airlines performed noticeably better. It will be worth watching what happens in the coming months to see how carriers continue to work through a shortage of pilots, and whether air travel (along with much of the travel industry) truly has to wait until 2023 to see even more marked improvements.

Featured photo by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 6X points
6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points75,000 points
Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

Annual Fee

$125

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees