Thousands of flights canceled, delayed at start of workweek

<p><p>A winter storm moving into the mid-Atlantic combined with the pandemic to continue frustrating air travelers whose return flights home from the holidays were canceled or delayed in the first few days of the new year.</p></p><p><p>More than 1,900 U.S. flights and more than 3,300 worldwide were grounded as of early Monday, according to tracking service FlightAware.</p></p><p><p>As of 10:30 a.m. Monday, two flights bound for Spokane International Airport from Seattle and one from Sacramento had been cancelled. And, three afternoon departures to Seattle had been cancelled.</p></p><p><p>That follows Sunday’s cancellations of more than 2,700 U.S. flights, and more than 4,400 worldwide.</p></p><p><p>And on Saturday there were also more than 2,700 U.S. flights cancelled and more than 4,700 worldwide.</p></p><p><p>The <a href=”https://apnews.com/article/storms-weather-district-of-columbia-f43f3a379e6ed05e726348891c0b68e7″ target=”—blank”>winter storm</a> is expected to bring as much as 10 inches of snow for the District of Columbia, northern Virginia and central Maryland through Monday afternoon.</p></p><p><p>The cancellations, coupled with more than 5,000 flight delays on Monday, just add to the despair felt over the weekend by holidays travelers trying to get home.</p></p><p><p>“It was absolute mayhem,” said Natasha Enos, who spent a sleepless Saturday night and Sunday morning at Denver International Airport during what was supposed to be a short layover on a cross-country trip from Washington to San Francisco.</p></p><p><p>Saturday’s single-day U.S. toll of grounded flights was the highest since just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staffing shortages on increasing COVID-19 infections among crews.</p></p><p><p>A winter storm that hit the Midwest on Saturday made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers throughout the weekend.</p></p><p><p>About a quarter of all flights at O’Hare Airport were canceled Sunday.</p></p><p><p>Denver’s airport also faced significant disruptions. Enos, who was flying on Frontier Airlines, didn’t learn that her connecting flight home to California was canceled until she had already landed in Denver.</p></p><p><p>Then it was a rush to find alternative flights and navigate through baggage claims packed with stranded and confused travelers, amid concerns about the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19.</p></p><p><p>“It was a lot of people in a very small space and not everybody was masking,” said the 28-year-old financial analyst. “There were a lot of exhausted kids and some families were so stressed out.”</p></p><p><p>In Michigan, the authority that runs Detroit International Airport said crews were working around the clock to remove snow and maintain the airfield.</p></p><p><p>Atlanta’s airport authority advised travelers to arrive earlier than usual because of high passenger volume, potential weather issues and pandemic-fueled staffing shortages that could lengthen the time it takes to get through security gates.</p></p><p><p>And thousands of miles from the closest snow storms, Hawaiian Airlines said it had to cancel several flights between islands and across the Pacific due to staffing shortages.</p></p><p><p>Southwest Airlines said it was working to help customers affected by about 400 flights canceled around the country Sunday, about 11% of its schedule.</p></p><p><p>The Dallas-based airline anticipates even more operational challenges to come as the storm system pushes into the Eastern seaboard.</p></p><p><p>Delta Air Lines said Sunday it was issuing a travel waiver for planned flights this week out of mid-Atlantic airports in Baltimore and Washington in preparation for forecasted winter weather.</p></p><p><p>American Airlines said most of Sunday’s canceled flights had been canceled ahead of time to avoid last-minute disruptions at the airport.</p></p><p><p>SkyWest, a regional carrier that operates flights under the names American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, grounded more than 500 flights Sunday, about 20% of its schedule, according to FlightAware.</p></p><p><p>Airlines have said they are taking steps to reduce cancellations caused by workers affected by the pandemic.</p></p><p><p>United is offering to pay pilots triple or more of their usual wages for picking up open flights through most of January.</p></p><p><p>Spirit Airlines reached a deal with the Association of Flight Attendants for double pay for cabin crews through Tuesday, a union spokesperson said.</p></p><p><p>Airlines hope that extra pay and reduced schedules get them through the holiday crush and into the heart of January, when travel demand usually drops off.</p></p><p><p>The seasonal decline could be sharper than normal this year because most business travelers are still grounded.</p></p>