Winter weather combined with the pandemic frustrated American air travelers in the early days of the new year, contributing to a “Marecancellations, confusion and chaos at airports, all amid concerns over the Omicron Covid surge.
As a major winter storm battered the mid-Atlantic states on Monday, more than half of flights were delayed or canceled at Ronald Reagan National Airport, Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport and at Washington Dulles International Airport, according to FlightAware.com’s map of misery.
A quarter of flights at New York’s three major airports were also delayed or canceled.
As of noon, more than 2,600 US flights and more than 4,100 worldwide were grounded. Another 8,500 flights were delayed, including 3,100 in the United States.
Travelers could hope for an improvement in weather forecasts. Airlines have canceled less than 300 U.S. flights scheduled for Tuesday.
More than 2,600 US flights and more than 4,400 worldwide were grounded on Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware. This followed Saturday’s cancellations of more than 2,700 flights in the United States and more than 4,700 worldwide.
“It was absolute chaos,” said Natasha Enos, who spent a sleepless Saturday night and Sunday morning at Denver International Airport during what was supposed to be a short layover on a trip through the country from Washington to San Francisco.
Saturday’s one-day ground flight toll was the highest since just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staff shortages for rising Covid-19 infections among crews.
A winter storm that hit the Midwest on Saturday made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers throughout the weekend. About a quarter of all flights at O’Hare Airport were canceled on Sunday.
Denver airport also faced major disruptions. Enos, at the helm of Frontier Airlines, did not learn that his flight back to California had been canceled until he landed in Denver. Then it was a rush to find alternative flights and navigate baggage claims filled with stranded and confused travellers, amid concerns about the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19.
“There were a lot of people in a very small space and not everyone was masking,” said the 28-year-old financial analyst. “There were a lot of exhausted children and some families were so stressed.”
In Michigan, the authority that operates Detroit International Airport said crews were working around the clock to clear snow and maintain the airfield.
The Atlanta Airport Authority has advised travelers to arrive earlier than usual due to high passenger volumes, potential weather issues and pandemic-fueled staffing shortages that could lengthen the time it takes to get through the airports. security barriers.
Thousands of miles from the nearest snowstorms, Hawaiian Airlines said it had to cancel several flights between the islands and across the Pacific due to staffing shortages.
Southwest Airlines said it was working to help customers affected by about 400 canceled flights across the country on Sunday, or about 11% of its schedule. The Dallas-based airline predicts even more operational challenges ahead as the storm system pushes into the East Coast.
Delta Air Lines said Sunday it was issuing a travel waiver for flights scheduled this week from Mid-Atlantic airports in Baltimore and Washington.
American Airlines said most flights canceled on Sunday were canceled in advance to avoid last-minute disruptions at the airport.
SkyWest, a regional carrier that operates flights as American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, grounded more than 500 flights on Sunday, or about 20% of its schedule, according to FlightAware.
Airlines have said they are taking steps to reduce cancellations caused by workers affected by the pandemic. United is offering to pay pilots triple or more of their usual salary to take open flights for most of January. Spirit Airlines has reached an agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants for double pay for cabin crew until Tuesday, a union spokesman said.
Airlines are hoping the extra pay and reduced hours will get them through the holiday season and into the heart of January, when travel demand typically wanes. The seasonal decline could be steeper than normal this year as most business travelers are still grounded.