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COVID-19 staffing shortages, winter weather lead more than 1,000 canceled post-Christmas flights

COVID-19 Outbreak Holiday Travel
Posted at 7:04 AM, Dec 27, 2021

One of the busiest travel weeks of the year has been upended by weather and the spread of COVID-19, leaving thousands of travelers stranded following the Christmas holiday.

Flight Aware, a website that tracks airline cancellations and delays worldwide, reports that a whopping 1,500 flights were canceled in the U.S. on Sunday. On Monday, as of 8:30 a.m. ET, nearly 800 cancellations had already been reported.

According to Flight Aware, United and Alaska Airlines reported the most cancellations and delays on Monday morning. Alaska Airlines alone canceled 93 flights, representing 13% of all its air traffic for Monday.

The cancelations continue a trend that began last week when several airlines confirmed staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 outbreaks.

CNN obtained an internal memo from United last Thursday that noted that the rise of the more contagious omicron variant had a "direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation."

In a statement, Delta Airlines told NPR that omicron staffing shortages also factored into its decision to cancel 344 flights on Christmas Day. NBC News reports that JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have also cited staffing shortages and COVID-19 outbreaks as reasons for canceling flights.

In addition, a large swath of the western U.S. is also dealing with a winter storm, further complicating travel plans.

A Christmas snowstorm blanketed northern California up to Washington in fresh powder, further causing delays for airlines with western hubs, like Alaska Airlines.

But the snow isn't just impacting air travel. According to The Associated Press, the storm was to blame for a 20-car pileup on a highway near Reno, Nevada.