Christmas travel: Hundreds of flights canceled but not because of weather

United and Delta have canceled hundreds of flights

The combination of Mother Nature and the COVID-19 pandemic could cause significant issues for travelers on the day before Christmas.

While most of the eastern two-thirds of the country experienced temperatures above average, the unsettled weather pattern across the West and a variant from the pandemic could cause the most cancellations and delays.

Both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines announced the cancellation of dozens of flights Friday, leading to concerns that some travelers may not make it to their holiday destinations.

In a written statement, United officials said passengers on canceled flights are being notified.

"The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport. We’re sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays."

Delta officials said in a written statement that the airline has tried several ways to avoid canceling flights.

"Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources – including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying – before canceling around 90 flights Friday. We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans. Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight."

FlightAware reported more than 1,900 flights were canceled as of Friday morning around the world, the bulk of them being in China, India and the U.S.

United made up the majority of U.S. cancellations, with nearly 170 flights that had been canceled. Delta had canceled more than 110 flights. The cancellations were impacting several airports across the country, including Newark Liberty International, Hartsfield-Jackson International, Chicago O’Hare International and John F. Kennedy International.


Weather causing limited impacts

A continued unsettled weather pattern across the West will lead to rain and snow for several areas from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast.

Airports, where the weather could impact operations on Friday, include Seattle, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Phoenix.

The remainder of the country is expected to remain quiet on Christmas Eve except for the occasional period of gusty winds that could impact the Upper Midwest and parts of the Northeast.

More adverse weather could impact travelers on Christmas Day when cities on the West Coast and the East Coast could see precipitation.


Areas of rain and snow are expected from the West Coast to the Rockies on Saturday.

Meteorologists say the system will be working with colder air, which means snow could fall at lower elevations.

Delays are expected at many major western U.S. airports on Christmas Day, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles

In the eastern half of the country, a quick-moving storm system could lead to rain from the Great Lakes through the Northeast, with a wintry mix possible for interior New England.

Airport delays could impact travelers in Chicago, Detroit, Boston and the New York City metro.

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