More Than 2,000 Flights Canceled on Monday

A storm in the Washington area knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people, adding to the problems facing airlines, including staff shortages.

More than 2,000 flights were canceled in the United States on Monday, as bad weather, including a storm in the Washington area, and crew shortages hampered airlines.

The cancellations came on what was expected to be one of the busiest travel days of the holiday season as people make their way home from vacations. The turmoil extends an industrywide disruption that started before Christmas and peaked this weekend with more than 5,400 cancellations, representing more than 12 percent of all scheduled flights on Saturday and more than 10 percent on Sunday, according to FlightAware, a tracking service.

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 480 flights on Monday, far more than any other U.S. airline, accounting for about 13 percent of its schedule. JetBlue, a much smaller carrier, canceled an equal share of its flights, while United Airlines dropped 5 percent of its flights and Delta Air Lines shed 4 percent. In addition, more than 1,600 flights were delayed by 15 minutes or more.

The cancellations in recent days were driven in large part by a winter storm that dumped snow on Chicago, disrupting travel at the city’s two airports, as well as bad weather and storms elsewhere. On Monday, a snowstorm shuttered federal offices and schools in the Washington area, leaving hundreds of thousands without power. Bad weather, particularly in the West, had forced flight cancellations around Christmas, with the disruptions then and now exacerbated by shortages of crews who called in sick with the coronavirus.

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” United said in a statement on Saturday. “As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport.”

Millions of people have boarded flights over the past two weeks, despite the fast-spreading Omicron variant, according to the Transportation Security Administration. But overall passenger volumes are still about 15 percent below prepandemic levels. Many airline executives and analysts expect passenger volumes return to 2019 levels this summer.

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