United and Delta cancel dozens of Christmas Eve flights amid COVID surge

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ST. LOUIS — At least two major airlines canceled dozens of flights scheduled for Christmas Eve due to the omicron variant and staffing shortages. 

On Thursday, United Airlines announced it canceled about 120 flights. Delta Air Lines also canceled about 90 flights, according to FlightAware.

FOX 2 has reached out to both airlines to see if any of the canceled flights were in or out of St. Louis. It’s unclear at this time.

Meanwhile, United released the following statement on its decision to cancel flights during the holiday rush:

The nationwide spike in omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport. We’re sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays.

“We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans,” the statement continued. “Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight.”

There has been a 6% increase in COVID-19 cases in the last three weeks in St. Louis City and County.

Earlier on Thursday, the COVID numbers did not detour travelers from catching flights before Christmas. Lambert International airport officials said Christmas Eve Eve is the busiest travel day before the holiday.

“It’s been a very busy day. It’s obviously very smooth. The weather’s been great so that’s a big help, ” said airport director Rhonda Hamm-Neibrugge.

She said people seem a lot more comfortable traveling despite the ongoing pandemic, and travel numbers are reflected that. 

“If we look at compared to 2019, we’re about 13% to 14% off from 2019. But considering where we were last year, were 60% to 70% above last year’s numbers. So, a dramatic increase is obviously from 2020,” Hamm-Neibrugge added. 

Airport officials said there were 1,300 flights scheduled inbound and outbound Thursday through Sunday. It’s currently unknown whether Delta and United’s flight cancellations will impact that number.

The airport is reminding customers to not travel with any wrapped gifts becuase they will likely be unwrapped if they are searched. 

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