Flight cancellations on Christmas due to staffing problems due to Omicron snarl holiday plans for thousands

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year, and airlines canceled hundreds of flights Saturday because of staffing issues.

Nearly 1,000 canceled flights were noted by FlightAware. Saturday was up from Friday's canceled flights. More than 250 flights were canceled on Sunday. FlightAware doesn't say why flights are canceled.

The Omicron variant was causing staffing problems that were leading to flight cancelations. Staffing shortages are still causing cancelations and it's not clear when normal operations will return. She said that the impact on staffing was unexpected. The airlines didn't respond to questions Saturday.

The airlines canceled more than 10% of their flights on Saturday. More than 90 flights were canceled by American Airlines on Saturday. The cancellation was due to "COVID-related sick calls." European and Australian airlines have canceled holiday-season flights because of staffing problems.

It meant time away from loved ones, chaos at the airport, and the stress of standing in line for hours to rebook flights. Peter and Malaika were supposed to be in Senegal on Saturday to celebrate with relatives they hadn't seen in a decade. They found out about the canceled flight when they got to the airport. They were at the airport until 2 a.m. trying to rebook a flight.

He said that Delta had a lack of customer service. Nobody explained anything. Not even, 'Oh we're so sorry, this is what we can do to help you.'

They are worried that there will be issues with their new flight, which has a stop in Paris. They missed out on a big family get-together.

Almost one-third of the flights that were canceled as of Saturday evening were from or within the United States. Chinese airlines made up many of the canceled flights, and Chinese airports had the most canceled flights. It wasn't clear why. China has strict control measures, including frequent lockdowns, and the government set one on the 13 million person city of Xi'an this week.

Air China, China Eastern, and Lion Air did not respond to emails Saturday.

There have been a lot of flight delays and canceled flights this year. When air travel collapsed in 2020, airlines encouraged workers to quit and this year they were short-staffed.

Spain and the U.K. have reduced the length of COVID-19 quarks by allowing people to return to work sooner if they test positive for the disease.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian called on the Biden administration to take similar steps or risk more disruptions in air travel. The US shortened COVID-19 isolation rules for health care workers.