For air travellers, 2017 brought a lot of frustration and continued where it left off. By late Saturday afternoon on the East Coast, more than 2,600 U.S. flights and nearly 4,600 worldwide had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware.
That is the highest single-day toll yet since just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staffing shortages on increasing COVID-19 infections among crews. More than 12,000 U.S. flights have been canceled since December 24.
Saturday’s disruptions weren’t just due to the virus, however. Wintry weather made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers, with 800 flights scrubbed at O’Hare Airport and more than 250 at Midway Airport. According to forecasts, there would be nine inches of snow. Denver, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, were hit with at least 100 cancellations each.
Southwest Airlines, which has major operations at Chicago Midway and Denver, canceled more than 450 flights nationwide, or 13% of its schedule, by midmorning. American, Delta, United and JetBlue scrubbed more than 100 flights apiece.
SkyWest, a regional carrier that operates flights under the names American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, grounded more than 400 flights, or 21% of its schedule.
Among international carriers, China Eastern scrubbed more than 500 flights, or about one-fourth of its total, and Air China canceled more than 200 flights, one-fifth of its schedule, according to FlightAware.
Airlines say they are taking steps to reduce cancellations. United will pay up to triple the wages of pilots for taking on open flights from mid-January. Some workers have seen their premium wages increase at Southwest Airlines and other companies.
Alaska Airlines advised customers that they should delay “non-essential trips” planned for this weekend due to the onset of winter in the Pacific Northwest. The airline stated that it was not certain it would be able to rebook passengers who were stranded due to full flights during the New Year’s Holiday.
Travelers who stuck to the roads instead of the skies faced challenges, too. Officials in transportation from the Midwest advised motorists that snow and rain could cause slippery roads and make it difficult to see, creating dangerous driving conditions.
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