Holiday travel is generally a stressful enterprise, but a rapid surge in cases of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant have caused hundreds of flight cancellations, adding another layer of difficulty to the proceedings.
“It’s crazy because there’s flights here on United every hour or so,” said Nick Affatato from Denver, Colorado. “So they canceled early ones and they canceled late ones but ours wasn’t canceled so that’s great.”
Affatato is traveling from Denver to Chicago with his family and said he’s not worried about catching COVID.
“I have zero concerns. I travel for work, we travel personally all the time,” he said. “Almost all of us have been vaccinated and boosted.”
Several major airlines, including Delta, United, and Alaska dealing with a shortage of workers. Many of them now in quarantine after testing positive for COVID.
According to Flightaware, nearly 1,000 flights were canceled on Christmas Day. O’Hare international Airport accounted for nearly 70 of those.
Sunday morning saw more of the same at O’Hare, with 36 cancellations reported as of 9 a.m. Just two flights had been canceled at Midway, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
Travelers arriving in and leaving from Chicago are hoping that they can be among the fortunate ones to make their way to their destinations.
“We’re going straight to New Delhi, India from here,” said Abdurrahman Patel from Chicago’s Albany Park. “It’s going to be a 14-hour flight, luckily for us, there were no problems, no nothing—everything went smooth and clear.”
United said it’s working to rebook flights for customers impacted by the cancellations. It’s unclear when they plan to resume normal operations.
For Arlington Heights resident Lee Erbach and his two sons, he’s hoping they can get to their destination safely and on time.
“One of this Christmas gifts is us heading to Houston for the game tomorrow to watch the Los Angeles Chargers play,” he said. “We’re very excited. We’re ready to go!”
For residents planning to fly over the weekend, airline officials are urging travelers to check early and often on their flight status, with things changing quickly because of crew shortages and other issues.