Travelers make their manner by way of Miami International Airport on December 28, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Travel in 2021 ended on a anxious be aware for 1000’s due to omicron. The fast-spreading coronavirus variant has pushed up an infection charges round the world, together with amongst airline employees.

U.S. airlines have canceled greater than 10,000 flights over the year-end vacation interval as the variant sidelined pilots and flight attendants and unhealthy climate hit hubs akin to Seattle and Atlanta. Thousands extra flights had been delayed.

It’s a small share of total schedules — about 5%, in response to flight-tracking web site FlightAware — nevertheless it has disrupted the plans of tens of 1000’s of vacationers throughout what airline executives had forecast to be the busiest time since the pandemic started. Since Dec. 23, greater than 15.6 million individuals have handed by way of Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at airports, nearly double the quantity a 12 months in the past.

Unlike the meltdowns at Spirit, American and Southwest in the summer time and fall, the current spate of disruptions is unfold amongst a number of airlines, together with Delta, United, JetBlue, Alaska and SkyWest.

Here’s what to know:


If your airline cancels your flight and you select to not take an alternate flight, they owe you a refund beneath federal legislation. Airlines may supply credit score with the airline, however passengers can ask for a full refund. This is the case no matter the purpose for the cancellation: unhealthy climate, staffing issues or different points, in response to the Department of Transportation.

“You can always get your money back if they can’t accommodate you, but it doesn’t get you home,” mentioned Brett Snyder, who runs a journey concierge service and the Cranky Flier journey web site.

The DOT additionally says vacationers are owed refunds if their flight is considerably delayed, although it doesn’t outline what falls into that class.

“Whether you are entitled to a refund depends on many factors — including the length of the delay, the length of the flight, and your particular circumstances,” it says on its web site. “DOT determines whether you are entitled to a refund following a significant delay on a case-by-case basis.”


Airlines try to cancel flights lengthy earlier than passengers get to the airport so vacationers could make various plans, ideally by way of self-serve platforms on their apps or web sites, and do not overwhelm ticket counters. JetBlue, for instance, is trimming about 1,280 flights from its schedule although Jan. 13, forward of an anticipated additional improve in the variety of omicron infections amongst employees.

“The worst type of cancellation, as we all know, is that cancellation that happens at the airport,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes informed CNBC on Thursday.

Hold instances on airline customer support telephone strains throughout a interval of disruptions can generally be hours, although some carriers, akin to Delta, will ring you again when it is your flip. Airlines additionally supply chat companies and infrequently reply on Twitter.

Snyder recommends making an attempt all accessible channels when there are backups.

Passenger cancellations

With omicron persevering with to unfold, some vacationers would possibly decide to place off journey or could take a look at optimistic and be unable to achieve their vacation spot if touring overseas. Many nations have tightened journey restrictions since the omicron variant was detected in late November. The United States, for instance, now requires all inbound vacationers, together with U.S. residents, to check unfavorable for Covid inside a day of departure.

The State Department on Thursday warned U.S. residents about worldwide journey, as testing optimistic in one other nation may imply vacationers should quarantine overseas, at their very own expense, till they take a look at unfavorable.

“Foreign governments in any country may implement restrictions with little notice,” the State Department added.

Large U.S. airlines akin to Delta, United and American have carried out away with the hefty change charges for normal economic system tickets and above, each for worldwide and home flights. Travelers are nonetheless liable for any distinction in fare. Airlines have largely ended pandemic-era payment waivers for nonrefundable fundamental economic system tickets, however vacationers ought to test with their particular airline.

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