The winter holidays are typically one of the busiest travel periods of the year, with people traveling around, into, and out of the country to spend the holidays with family or travel for work. Unfortunately, in an echo of 2020’s holiday season, 2021’s holidays have proven to be resistant to travel as new COVID-19 cases force flight cancellations.
According to flight tracking website FlightAware, in the United States alone, nearly 2,200 flights were cancelled entirely due to airline staff and crew calling out sick or local mandates forcing planes to remain grounded. Additionally, around 3,000 flights were delayed due to similar circumstances. On the global scale, around 6,000 flights were cancelled entirely on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while over 5,000 were delayed on Sunday.
Millions of people passed through TSA checkpoints, eager not only to be with their families for the holidays, but to be literally anywhere besides their own homes after another year of sporadic lockdowns and mandates. The Wednesday before Christmas, over 2 millions people passed through TSA checkpoints, a substantial increase over even the time right before the pandemic in 2019.
“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” United Airlines said in an internal memo.
Approximately 3,000 of the cancelled flights were in or out of the United States, where the highly transmissible Omicron COVID variant is causing a surge in infections, according to flight-tracking website https://t.co/5aj7j1ctR0 https://t.co/M8DhjOGvGQ
— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 27, 2021
Due to the ongoing cancellations, many people who successfully traveled for the holidays have found themselves stranded at their destinations, as chartering a return flight remains a spotty endeavor.
“We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans,” Delta Airlines said in a statement. “Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight.”