Monday, January 24

United States: Omicron and winter storm disrupt air transport

Airline employees at Ronald Reagant Washington Airport on December 27, 2021ROBERTO SCHMIDT

Taking a plane was an obstacle course in the United States on Sunday, right back from the Christmas holidays, with more than 2,600 flights canceled, the weather adding to the disruptions linked to the Omicron variant.

The situation should remain complicated Monday, for the first working day of 2022, with more than 2,000 flights already canceled, in a country crossed since Saturday by the winter storm Frida.

As of 10 p.m. Sunday (3:00 a.m. GMT Monday), more than 2,650 domestic or international flights to or from the United States had been canceled, almost as many as the 2,750 flights canceled on Saturday, according to flight tracking service FlightAware.

This represents more than half of the nearly 4,400 flights canceled worldwide at the same time. Almost 8,600 American flights were delayed.

Southwest Airlines, one of the worst-hit airlines, had to cancel some 400 flights on Sunday morning, a spokesperson said in an email to AFP, adding that it expected more cancellations.

Southwest passenger Nick Kagy has had his flight canceled. “We waited almost 3 hours to change reservations because we couldn’t change reservations online, and after having sorted things out (not completely), you canceled our second flight to another airport,” he laments. he on Twitter.

“This is the 3rd cancellation (…). I was supposed to return 4 days ago”, tweeted at the end of the day Hayley, a passenger of the same company, on Sunday, from Chicago (Illinois).

Strong winds, floods and snowfall have in fact added to the disturbances in the United States that have affected the entire aviation sector in the world for a week. The highly contagious Omicron variant prevents many pilots, flight or ground personnel, sick or in the event of contact, from coming to work.

This lack of personnel is forcing companies to reduce their flight plans. Last weekend, just after Christmas, around 7,500 planes were canceled across the world.

– Expected to return 4 days ago –

Chicago airports have been the most affected Saturday globally since Saturday. About half of the flights there were canceled on Sunday, as the region experienced heavy snowfall.

But the situation was also complicated in Denver (Colorado), Newark (New Jersey), or Detroit (Michigan).

In the United States, the storm Frida will continue its route to touch the east coast, bringing snow from Boston to the south of the federal capital Washington, and more than 1,400 planned flights will not be able to be ensured.

The lack of personnel will also continue to disrupt the operation of airports, with luggage sometimes very difficult to recover, or a long wait on the phone for passengers trying to reach their destination.

Eric Crawford, for example, lamented on Twitter that he had been notified by the company Delta Airline “of an estimated wait of more than 22 hours to be able to have someone online following the cancellation of a flight”.

Kowshick Boddu explained to him on the social network that he had to take a flight from Fairbanks (Alaska) to San José (California) on December 30 with Air Alaska, “but our flight has been postponed to today (Sunday, Editor’s note) , and finally canceled again ??? Long hours on the phone, no answer, and flights that are not rescheduled? Need help! “

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