For air travelers, the new year picked up where the old one left off – with lots of frustration.
FlightAware tracked more than 2300 cancellations on Saturday, the East Coast.
It is the most severe single-day loss since December 24, when airlines blamed staffing shortages and COVID-19 increases on crews. Since Dec. 24, more than 12,000 U.S. flight cancellations have occurred.
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. Nine inches of snow was predicted by forecasters. Each of New Jersey’s three largest cities, Newark and Detroit, saw at least 100 cancellations.
Southwest Airlines has major operations in Chicago Midway, Denver and had canceled over 450 flights across the country, 13% of its entire schedule by midmorning. American, Delta and United cancelled more than 100 flights each.
SkyWest is a regional airline that operates under the name American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express. It grounded over 400 flights or 21%.
The airlines claim they’re taking measures to lessen cancellations. United offers to pay three times or more the usual wage for pilots who pick up flights that are still available through January. Some workers have seen a rise in premium pay at Southwest Airlines and other companies.
When winter weather hit the Pacific Northwest earlier this week, Alaska Airlines urged customers to delay any “non-essential” trips that were planned through this weekend. With full flights over the New Year’s holiday, the airline said it wasn’t sure it could rebook stranded passengers for at least three days.
Travelers who chose to stick with the road over the sky faced similar challenges. Midwest transportation officials warned drivers that the combination of snow and rain could cause slippery roads and decrease visibility. This can lead to dangerous driving conditions.