Over 1,200 flights canceled due to bad weather, COVID-related staffing issues

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A swath of flights were delayed or canceled on Tuesday, leaving more passengers stranded at airports around the nation. 

For more than a week – during the extremely busy holiday travel season – airlines have been forced to change or scrap flights due to a mix of bad weather and coronavirus-related staffing shortages.  

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According to FlightAware, a flight-tracking website, 1,236 flights entering, leaving or within the U.S. were canceled as of 11:30 a.m. ET Tuesday. Another 1,694 flights were delayed.    

Over the weekend, however, about 5,400 U.S. flights were canceled and more than 9,000 worldwide, according to FlightAware. By Monday afternoon, about 18,000 U.S. flights had been canceled since Christmas Eve. 

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A Southwest Airlines spokesperson said storms over the weekend and on Monday affected operations at some of its biggest airports, including Chicago, Denver and Baltimore, and left planes and crews out of position. Meanwhile, United Airlines said the omicron variant has affected its flight crews, resulting in canceled flights. 

Travellers check departure screens for their flight status at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh / AP Newsroom)

Delta Air Lines blamed the winter weather and the omicron variant, but said it expected fewer than half as many cancellations Tuesday and Wednesday.

American Airlines cited the winter storm in the Washington, D.C., area, and said the number of employees calling in sick because of COVID-19 was similar to the past few days.

However, with COVID-19 cases still surging, it remains unclear when operations will return to normal.  

UNITED, SPIRIT OFFERING PAY BOOSTS TO MITIGATE COVID-RELATED STAFFING DISRUPTIONS

Tuesday now marks nearly two weeks of disruptions for the battered industry, which is now offering temporary bonuses to pilots and flight attendants who pick up extra flights left empty by co-workers with COVID-19. 

For instance, United is offering triple-time pay for pilots that pick up a trip during January. 

Additionally, Spirit Airlines is offering its flight attendants double pay for working through Jan. 4 amid virus-related staffing shortages, according to Reuters. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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