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COVID delays holiday travel for thousands: “Omicron is the Grinch”

It was a difficult Christmas weekend for thousands of Americans because of the latest COVID surge.

Twice as many people traveled for Christmas this year compared to last year, reports correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti, with many people arriving at homes impacted by COVID. And some people couldn’t even get home at all; many travelers found themselves on epic and exhausting journeys after infections among pilots, crew and airline staff caused last-minute flight changes

From Friday to Sunday, more than 3,000 flights were canceled across the U.S. Hundreds more were canceled Monday morning. 

Spending Christmas Eve alone in an airport hotel wasn’t what Rohit Tejwani had in mind for the holidays this year. “I think I felt pretty deflated, sort of dispirited,” he said. “Midway through my first flight, [I] got a notification that my connecting flight was canceled and that there were no other flights for the day. And the next earliest flight was going to be the following afternoon, which would mean that I was going to miss being at home for Christmas and miss Christmas Eve with my family.”

Tejwani was told his flight was canceled because of COVID-related airline crew shortages. “It’s frustrating that the pandemic still keeps affecting our lives in so many different ways, even two years out,” he said. 

A United Airlines statement said, “The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation.”

“Omicron is the Grinch that stole Christmas from airline travelers,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst. “Airlines can’t operate flights without the required number of pilots and flight attendants. Safety comes first.”

And now, several airlines are calling on the CDC to update its COVID guidance for the fully vaccinated and reduce the quarantine isolation period from ten days to five for those who have breakthrough cases.

“The government approved this request for the healthcare industry,” Harteveldt said. “And honestly, if it’s good enough for hospital workers, for nurses and doctors, I think it should be good enough for the airline industry as well.”

It wasn’t just trouble in the skies. The cruise ship industry is also facing COVID disruptions. Three cruise lines had outbreaks onboard in the last week, with dozens of passengers testing positive and forced to quarantine.

Carnival Cruise passenger Tom Robinson said, “You had to be fully vaccinated, and you had to have a negative test two days before. I mean, what more could they do before you boarded the ship?”

Harteveldt said the best thing to do if you’re traveling this week, and especially flying, is to sign up for text alerts so that you can be notified immediately if there are any disruptions to your travel plans.



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