Flight cancellation spree continues through New Year’s weekend

Travelers stand in line for ticketing at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in St. Louis on Dec. 26. Airlines have blamed coronavirus for staffing problems that led to a spree of cancellations that began Christmas Eve. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Jan. 2 (UPI) — Thousands of flights were canceled and delayed over New Year’s weekend because of winter storms in the Midwest and a reduced workforce caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

FlightAware, a flight tracking and data platform, said there were at least 2,377 domestic and international flights to and from the United States canceled Sunday by the afternoon — continuing a spree in cancellations that began on Christmas Eve.

There were more than 4,000 flights canceled globally Sunday, which is typically the busiest travel day of the week.

On Saturday, 4,740 flights were canceled worldwide Saturday with 2,749 domestic and international U.S. flights canceled, the data shows. There were 13,121 flights delayed globally on Saturday, and 7,401 international and domestic U.S. flights delayed.

Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, American Airlines, and United Airlines — all among the country’s largest airlines — each had more than 100 flights canceled, the data shows. Southwest had more than 950 flight delays, the most of any airline.

The U.S. airports with the largest impact from the cancellations Sunday included Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which had 26% of its departure flights canceled and 24% of its arrivals canceled. Chicago Midway airport had 15% of its departures canceled and 7% of its arrivals canceled.

The delays come during one of the biggest travel periods of the season, with travel numbers approaching pre-pandemic levels.

On New Year’s Day, the Transportation Security Administration screened 1,616,316 passengers, up from 1,192,881 in 2021 but lower than the 2,178,656 passengers screened in 2020 before the pandemic began.

The TSA screened 1,650,795 passengers on New Year’s Eve, more than double the 805,990 passengers screened the prior year. On Dec. 21, the TSA screened 1,979,089 passengers, just 2,344 passengers shy of the 1,981,433 screened on the same date in 2019.

As passengers have returned to flying for the holiday season, the airline industry has suffered a decreased workforce as workers isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.


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