For air travelers, the new year starts from the old year-full of setbacks.
According to data from the tracking service FlightAware, as of Saturday morning on the East Coast, more than 2,400 flights in the United States and nearly 4,200 flights worldwide were cancelled.
This is the highest single-day death toll since Christmas Eve, when airlines began to blame the shortage of personnel on the increase in crew infections with COVID-19. Since December 24, more than 12,000 U.S. flights have been cancelled.
However, Saturday’s interruption was not only due to the virus. The cold weather has made Chicago the most popular place for travelers in the United States, with 800 grounded flights at O’Hare Airport and more than 250 grounded flights at midway airports. It is predicted that nine inches of snow will be required. Denver, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey each had at least 100 cancellations.
Southwest Airlines has major operations in Chicago Midway and Denver. As of noon in the morning, it has cancelled more than 450 flights across the country, accounting for 13% of its plans. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways each cleared more than 100 flights.
SkyWest is a regional airline that operates flights under the names of American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express. It has grounded more than 400 flights, accounting for 21% of its flight schedule.
According to FlightAware, among international airlines, Eastern Airlines has cancelled more than 500 flights, accounting for about a quarter of its total, and Air China has cancelled more than 200 flights, accounting for one-fifth of its schedule.
Airlines said they are taking measures to reduce flight cancellations. United Airlines proposes to pay three times or more to pilots so that they can take the flight before mid-January. Southwest Airlines and other companies have also increased the wages of some workers.
Earlier this week, when winter weather hit the Pacific Northwest, Alaska Airlines urged customers to postpone any “non-essential” travel planned this weekend. Due to the full availability of flights during the New Year holiday, the airline said it was not sure whether it could rebook the stranded passengers for at least three days.
Travelers who insist on walking on the road instead of the sky also face challenges. Traffic officials in the Midwest warned motorists that mixed rain and snow could make roads slippery and reduce visibility, leading to dangerous driving conditions.