Thousands of flights canceled, delayed at the start of the work week

A winter storm that hit the Mid-Atlantic on Monday combined with a pandemic caused a shortage of airline workers to push flight cancellations into a high season, creating more frustration for travelers just trying to get home.

More than 3,000 U.S. flights and about 4,800 worldwide were canceled late Monday afternoon on the east coast, according to tracking service FlightAware. Another 13,000 flights were delayed, including more than 6,000 in the United States

Travelers could hope for a better weather forecast: Airlines had canceled fewer than 400 US flights scheduled for Tuesday.

First, however, they had to contend with a winter storm which dumped several inches of snow in the District of Columbia, northern Virginia and central Maryland before ending Monday afternoon.

The cancellations and delays contributed to the despair that became known over the weekend of holidaymakers trying to get home.

Jason Pevitt was stuck at the airport in Atlanta for eight hours ̵[ads1]1; and counting – Monday night, trying to get home to Virginia after spending his vacation with his family in Tampa, Florida. He became increasingly anxious about the risk of transmitting covid-19 in the terminal.

American Airlines canceled Pevitt’s original flight to Washington’s Reagan National Airport long before a winter storm hit the Washington area on Monday. He rebooked on Delta Air Lines, but was hit by several cancellations after a stopover in Atlanta – this time apparently due to the storm.

“It simply came to our notice then. That’s my biggest problem, ”said the 28-year-old, who works for an accounting firm.

Many other travelers tweeted to the airlines to complain about last minute cancellations and long delays, lost luggage and hourly waiting times to reach someone in customer service. Some said they slept at airports.

Customs duties on flights due in the United States were a few hundred per day the week before Christmas, and then rose over 1,000 per day. Airlines blamed crew shortages for the spread virus, including the highly transmissible omicron variant – new cases have tripled in the past two weeks, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Airlines and passengers were lucky for several days with mostly favorable weather, but that changed when a winter storm hit the Midwest on Saturday and led to the cancellations again increasing to new heights during the holiday season.

Over the weekend, about 5,400 US flights were canceled – almost 12% of all scheduled flights – and more than 9,000 worldwide, according to FlightAware. On Monday afternoon, around 18,000 American flights had been canceled since Christmas Eve.

Many of the cancellations were made hours or even a day in advance. The airline believes they have a better chance of keeping easier timetables on the right track, and it saves passengers from making unnecessary trips to the airport.

More than three-quarters of Monday’s scheduled flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and nearly half of the nearby Baltimore / Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport were scrubbed, according to FlightAware. Both airports received more than six inches of snow.

Southwest Airlines had canceled around 600 flights, or 17% of Monday’s schedule, by noon. Spokesman Brad Hawkins said storms over the weekend and on Monday affected operations at some of the major airports, including Chicago, Denver and Baltimore, leaving aircraft and crews out of position.

United Airlines said that the nationwide COVID-19 peak caused by the omicron variant has affected flight crews, resulting in canceled flights. Delta cited winter weather and omicron, but said it expected less than half as many cancellations on Tuesday and Wednesday. American cited the storm in the Washington area and said that the number of employees who reported sick due to COVID-19 was the same in recent days, although it refused to give figures.

SkyWest, a regional airline that operates flights under the names United Express, American Eagle and Delta Connection, put more than 350 flights on the ground on Monday after scrubbing 500 on Sunday.

Thousands of miles from the blizzards, Hawaiian Airlines said it had to cancel more flights between islands and across the Pacific Ocean due to lack of crew.

Airlines pay temporary bonuses to encourage pilots and flight attendants to pick up planes that are empty of covid-19 employees. United will pay pilots triple their regular salaries to catch open flights through most of January. Spirit Airlines entered into an agreement with the union to pay the flight attendants double until Tuesday.

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