More than 2,300 U.S. flights canceled Sunday due to storms, COVID

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The chilly weather combined with the pandemic to frustrate air travelers whose holiday flights back home were canceled or delayed into the first days of the new year.

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As of Sunday afternoon, more than 2,300 US flights and more than 3,900 worldwide flights had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware.

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This was followed by the cancellation of more than 2,700 US flights on Saturday and more than 4,700 flights worldwide. Saturday’s single-day US toll was the highest just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staff shortages on rising COVID-19 infections among employees.

A winter storm that hit the Midwest on Saturday made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers to visit over the weekend as improvements to the area’s airports continued on Sunday morning. About a quarter of flights were canceled at O’Hare Airport on Sunday.

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Southwest Airlines LUV,
+0.28%
said it is working to help customers affected by the nearly 400 flights canceled across the country on Sunday, which is about 11% of its schedule. The Dallas-based airline said it anticipates even more operational challenges to come as the storm system pushes into the East Coast.

Delta Air Lines DAL,
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On Sunday it said it was issuing travel discounts for flights planned this week from mid-Atlantic airports in Baltimore and Washington in preparation for winter forecast.

American Airlines AAL,
-0.61%
said that most of the flights canceled on Sunday were canceled ahead of time to avoid last-minute disruptions at the airport.

SkyWest Skyve,
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According to FlightAware, a regional carrier that operates flights under the names American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express flew about 500 flights on Sunday, which is about 20% of its schedule.

Airlines have said they are taking steps to reduce cancellations caused by the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. United UAL,
-0.79%
Most is offering pilots to pay three or more than their normal pay for open flights until January. A union spokesperson said Spirit Airlines reached an agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants to double pay for cabin crew by Tuesday.

Airlines expect the extra pay and reduced schedules to get them through the holiday crush and into mid-January, when travel demand typically drops. The seasonal decline this year could be sharper than usual as most business travelers remain closed.

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