New Years travel snarled by winter weather, omicron spike

New Years travel snarled by winter weather, omicron spike

Airlines have canceled thousands of flights amid a perfect storm of skyrocketing omicron cases and severe winter weather.

More than 4,261 flights globally have been canceled as of Saturday, according to FlightAware. More than 2,400 of those cancellations were within, into, or out of the U.S.

Southwest Airlines topped the number of cancellations among major U.S. airlines with 472 cancellations out of 3,518 total flights scheduled as of Saturday afternoon.

The airline suspended operations at both Chicago airports Saturday afternoon in anticipation of heaving winds and snow as Winter Storm Frida makes its way across the U.S. Southwest normally operates more than 200 flights out of Chicago Midway.

American Airlines has canceled 206 flights, noting that the winter storm sweeping through Chicago is having a significant impact on operations.

“The number of COVID-related sick calls is consistent with what we have seen over the past few days,” a spokesperson from American Airlines said in a statement.

Delta anticipated having to cancel up to 300 flights going into the holiday weekend as crews “continue to do all possible to mitigate constraints from increasing winter weather and the omicron variant,” they said. As of Saturday afternoon, the airline has canceled 186 flights.

United Airlines, which has canceled 153 flights noted that the national spike in Omicron has “had a direct impact” on its crews.

“As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport,” a spokesperson from United said in a statement.

Airline industry leaders warned going into the holidays the new variant would likely continue to sideline crews and cause further delays going forward.

Industry leaders also pressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to rethink the 10-day quarantine period requirements amid the wave.

The CDC announced early this week that it had shortened its recommended quarantine period for those exposed and who are asymptomatic or exhibit resolving symptoms to five days.