The end of the year is bringing in a fresh wave of headaches for travelers as thousands of flights were delayed or canceled on Friday, continuing the wave of travel disruptions that has become the norm during the holiday period. Bad weather in parts of the country and rising COVID-19 cases have converged to upend travel plans. As of early Friday afternoon, airlines had canceled 2,914 flights around the world Friday, including 1,435 into, out of, or within the United States, according to FlightAware. That comes a day after 3,149 flights were canceled around the world, including 1,441 in the United States.
Disruptions are likely to continue through the weekend as 2,106 flights have already been canceled for Saturday around the world, including 1,081 in the United States. Delta said on Thursday it expected to cancel between 200 and 300 flights per day over the weekend.
Airlines continue to suffer the effects of rising COVID-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant, which is cutting back on available staff at a time when many airlines had already been operating with a reduced staff. A challenging situation was made even worse as certain areas of the country were hit with snowstorms. “I’ve never seen a meltdown like this in my life,” said Angelo Cucuzza, the director of organizing at the Transport Workers Union, which represents flight attendants at JetBlue. “They just can’t keep up with the amount of folks that are testing positive.”
The staffing problem could soon extend beyond the airlines to the Federal Aviation Administration that warned there could be more delays as it faces staffing problems at air-traffic control stations. “To maintain safety, traffic volume at some facilities could be reduced, which might result in delays during busy periods,” an FAA spokesman said.