A formidable combination of bad weather in the west and a surging COVID-19 variant has led to the cancellation or delay of thousands of flights in the United States since the holiday season began.
Here's what you need to know.
How many flights have been canceled?
According to FlightAware, a live flight delay and cancelation tracking digital aviation company, there were 12,100 delays today and a total of 2839 cancelations within, into or out of the United States.
USA Today reports that since Christmas Eve, there have been “more than 8000 cancelations and more than 41,000 delays within, to or from the US”.
The hardest-hit airlines are JetBlue, Delta, Alaska and Southwest.
Why is my flight canceled?
Two major factors disrupting airline travel are bad weather and the highly-contagious Omicron variant. Western states like Nevada, northern California, Utah and Washington have seen record-low temperatures and heavy snowfall.
The Central Sierra Snow Laboratory reported a new December snow record of 212 inches. The previous record was 170 inches of snow which fell in December 1970.
Temperatures dipped to 17 degrees Fahrenheit in Seattle while, The Weather Channel reported up to nine feet of snow around Lake Tahoe.
And then there is the newest COVID-19 variant – Omicron, which has ripped through the US at alarming speeds. According to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, 489,267 new COVID-19 cases have been reported since Wednesday.
Oh, and the flu is resurging.
"It's tough enough to travel in the winter just because of bad weather, but COVID and the omicron variant are introducing new wrinkles that none of us had anticipated," travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt told USA Today. "Airlines have only so many of those standby crew members available."
What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 while traveling?
Updated quarantine guidelines might help but are controversial
A controversial decision made by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to reduce quarantine time for someone infected with or exposed to COVID-19 from 10 days to five is expected to alleviate the airline staffing issues. Delta Airlines has allegedly begun putting the new CDC requirements into practice. Other airlines are anticipated to follow suit.
The CDC’s decision is being met with great resistance and confusion as opponents fear businesses will begin to pressure unhealthy workers to report back to their jobs before full recovery.
What can stranded passengers do?
Aside from staying in contact with an airline ticketing agent or customer service (give the international call centers a try), there may be a few alternatives, but keep in mind, everyone has the same idea.
Long-distance bus operator Megabus is offering free travel for those impacted by flight cancelations between Dec. 27 - Jan. 7 2022.
Amtrak officials told The Washington Post their passenger rails were “holding up well with no trains canceled because of the pandemic.”
Car rentals have also seen a spike (in interest and price) so nabbing one may prove more difficult than trying to nab another flight.
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