The combination of an expected record number of travelers and a crowded runway schedule could add up to a big headache for those hoping to pack their bags and enjoy a vacation this summer.
The FAA estimates 209 million Americans will take a flight between Memorial Day and Labor Day. But it's not just the record number of passengers expected that will cause problems — airlines are also scheduling 3 percent more flights.
"With planes this full, it is very, very difficult to recover," said aviation analyst Darryl Jenkins. "There is just simply no slack in this system whatsoever."
On top of predictions of unusually rough weather this summer, labor strife is in the air as air traffic controllers complain they're short staffed with 700 fewer controllers than just a few years ago.
And pilots and flight attendants are angry over fat bonuses for bosses at a time when they are stretched thin.
"When we reach the limit, our pilots are going to say no. They will make the command decision to say 'No, I am too tired, my crew is too fatigued, this flight is canceled,'" said Capt. John Prater of the Airline Pilot's Association.
And it will be tough to find a seat on another flight if one is canceled as planes are expected to be 80 percent full.
Solution up Ahead
The government is trying out a new policy to help offset flight delays, which are already up 10 percent for the year. The FAA's new plan to reduce those pesky weather delays is to offer more options to pilots.
If a thunderstorm is threatening one region of the country, controllers won't delay all flights. Instead, they will give airlines a choice to either fly around the storm or wait out the weather.
"It means that people will be less delayed than they would have been," said FAA administrator Marion Blakey.
Still, frequent flyer Jeane Lynch isn't optimistic about traveling this summer, saying, "It will be much longer lines and a lot more people."