Thousands of flights canceled on New Year's Day

Omicron flight cancellations strand holiday travelers

Former Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza discusses ongoing flight cancellations due to COVID-19 and the 2022 travel industry outlook.

More than 2,000 flights are canceled on New Year's Day as the omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to upend airline operations during the holiday travel season. 

According to FlightAware, a flight-tracking website, 2,311 flights entering, leaving or within the U.S. were canceled as of 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday. Another 424 flights were delayed. 

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Southwest has the most cancelations of the major U.S. carriers with 457 scrapped flights as of 7:30 a.m. ET. Meanwhile, nearly 190 American Airlines flights were canceled in addition to 180 Delta and 142 United flights. JetBlue had 118 canceled flights and Spirit had 91.

The disruptions have continued throughout the holiday week, stranding holiday travelers at airports across the nation. 

Travelers line up at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh / AP Newsroom)

In fact, there were nearly 1,000 canceled flights entering, leaving or inside the U.S. on Christmas alone, up from 690 flights scrapped on Christmas Eve, according to FlightAware data.  

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Major carriers such as Delta, United and JetBlue have all blamed the omicron variant for causing staffing problems that ultimately lead to flight cancellations. Earlier this week, a United spokesperson noted that it was unclear when normal operations would return.  

Flight delays and cancellations tied to staffing shortages have been a regular problem for the U.S. airline industry over the past year.

However, the latest disruptions come amid a time when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) projected that travel volume will near pre-pandemic levels. 

On Sunday, the TSA screened 2,049,604 people at airport checkpoints across the country, down slightly from 2,392,331 in 2019.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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