2,400 U.S. flights canceled amid omicron outbreak; Atlanta feels impact

 People wait in line at the Delta check-in at the South Terminal at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport December 27, 2021  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Combined ShapeCaption
People wait in line at the Delta check-in at the South Terminal at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport December 27, 2021 STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

For air travelers, the new year picked up where the old one left off — with lots of frustration.

At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, 93 flights had been canceled and another 109 delayed by midday Saturday, according to tracking service FlightAware. That was well above the airport’s 2021 daily average of 10 flight cancellations.

More than 2,400 U.S. flights had been canceled by Saturday afternoon, according to FlightAware. Almost 1,700 other flights had been delayed, the Houston-based aviation tracker said.

That’s the highest single-day toll yet since airlines began blaming staffing shortages on increasing COVID-19 infections among crews just before Christmas.

Saturday’s disruptions weren’t just due to the virus, however. Wintry weather made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers, with 800 flights scrubbed at O’Hare Airport and more than 250 at Midway Airport by midmorning.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines scrubbed more than 100 flights, according to FlightAware. The number of flights Delta canceled in Atlanta was not immediately available, although the airline nixed Chicago-bound flights from Atlanta on Saturday.

Southwest, the second-largest carrier in Atlanta, had canceled more than 450 flights in the U.S., or 13% of its schedule.

SkyWest, which operates flights as American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, grounded more than 400 flights, or 21% of its schedule. American, United and JetBlue all scrubbed more than 100 flights each.

Before the holiday travel woes began, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport officials said they expected to handle about 3.7 million passengers between Dec. 20 and Jan. 4. That is up from 2020, and on par with pre-pandemic levels.