Flight cancellations in triple digits for second day in US

The U.S. is seeing a large number of flight cancellations on Christmas Day, with numbers swelling to triple digits for the second day in a row.

A total of 849 flights within, into or out of the U.S. were canceled as of 7:30 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday, according to data collected by FlightAware.

Thus far, 281 Delta Air Lines flights, 236 United Airlines flights, 120 JetBlue flights and 88 American Airlines flights have been canceled on Saturday in the U.S. as many travelers look to reunite with their families for the holiday.

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On Friday, 689 Christmas Eve flights were canceled in the U.S., according to FlightAware.

The current spike in COVID-19 cases nationwide is largely driving the cancellations, according to airlines. The U.S. is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, in part because of the new, highly transmissible omicron variant.

United Airlines told The Hill in a statement on Saturday that the “nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation.”

The airline said it has been forced to cancel some flights and is “working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays.”

 

Similarly, Delta Air Lines told The Hill in a statement on Saturday that winter weather and the surge in COVID-19 cases forced the airline to cancel flights because the company had “exhausted all options and resources.”

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“A combination of issues, including but not limited to inclement weather in some areas of the country and the impact of the omicron variant, are driving cancellations and potential delays,” the company said.

“We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans. Delta people are working together around the clock to reroute and substitute aircraft and crews to get customers where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible,” it added.

According to FlightAware, Delta canceled a total of 173 flights on Christmas Eve.

Delta said “Upwards of 150 cancels are expected Saturday and Sunday.”

American Airlines told The Hill in a statement on Saturday that “a number of COVID-related sick calls led us to make the difficult decision to precancel some flights scheduled for today,” despite its operation “running smoothly.”

“We proactively notified affected customers yesterday, and are working hard to rebook them quickly,” the airline added.

While a number of airlines have had to cancel flights because of the pandemic, demand for travel is still high. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it screened more than 2.1 million travelers at airports throughout the U.S. on Friday, which was significantly more than then roughly 616,000 individuals screened on the same day last year.

Numbers, however, remained lower than 2019 data, which was before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic; the TSA screened more than 2.5 million travelers on Dec. 24, 2019.

This story was updated at 1:18 p.m.