Flight cancellations greet New Year due to storms, Omicron
Airlines greeted the New Year with more than 6,600 weekend cancellations in the US, closing out a bumpy holiday season as a winter storm swept eastward and carriers dealt with staff shortages caused by the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
Cancellations of flights into, out of and within the US reached 2,679 Sunday along with 9,002 delays, according to the tracking firm FlightAware.com. That followed cancellations of more than 2,700 flights Saturday and at least 1,300 on Friday, which was New Year’s Eve.
With more than 1,300 US flights already dropped for Monday, it won’t be much easier for travellers attempting to return home after the bumpy holiday season. The busy travel period has been snarled by at least 13,000 cancelled flights since Christmas Eve as record Covid-19 infections contribute to worker shortages at airports and in the cockpits.
Delta Air Lines Inc. issued a travel waiver ahead of winter weather for Baltimore/Washington International and Washington, D.C.’s two airports, effective Jan. 2 through Jan. 7.
Globally, the tally of dropped flights topped almost 4,400 for Sunday, according to FlightAware. Robert Mann, a former American Airlines executive who is now a consultant, said there are about 115,000 flights a day globally during a peak travel period such as Christmas.
In the Asia-Pacific region, about 3,700 flights were cancelled over the weekend, led by China Eastern Airlines Corp. and Air China Ltd., as governments imposed stricter measures to curb the spread of omicron. Some 970 flights are expected to be dropped in the region Monday.
Chicago’s O’Hare International was the focus of Sunday’s delays, logging over 280 cancellations of flights scheduled to leave and almost as many for arrivals. That’s about a quarter of the total for both measures, according to FlightAware. On Saturday, about 45% of flights scheduled to leave from O’Hare and 55% from Chicago Midway were scratched, according to FlightAware.
For Sunday, Southwest Airlines Co. has cancelled 423 flights, or 11% of its schedule. Regional carrier SkyWest Inc. scrapped 529, or 22%.
A powerful storm across large parts of the country will continue to cause travel disruptions, according to the National Weather Service. The system is now heading east, bringing wintry conditions to New York and New England.
The Transportation Security Administration, which has been grappling with unruly passengers, urged people to “be patient.” Security screened more than 1.6 million people on Friday and a similar number Saturday at checkpoints about the country, it said.
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