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Major airlines cancel hundreds of flights on Christmas Eve

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Posted at 4:37 PM, Dec 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-24 17:48:42-05

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Major airlines have canceled hundreds of flights Friday across the country including here in South Florida as the omicron variant jumbled schedules and drew down staffing levels during the busy holiday season.

“Trying to get home for the holidays,” said Mitchell Marks.

Marks is from Maine. He is trying to get back home but his layover at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport got canceled by United Airlines. Marks said he didn’t receive a notification from the airline.

“But they didn’t even tell me. So, I would have flown out by 7 a.m., waited in DC for four plus hours and still made it home late. I had to change everything.”

Marks is one of the dozens of passengers impacted by cancelations flights on Christmas Eve.

United Airlines and Delta Airlines canceled flights Friday because of staff shortages tied to the omicron variant. Passengers told WPTV they had to scramble just to get to family and friends in time for Christmas.

Over at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, WPTV met up with Brett Allcorn. Allcorn said he had to jump through hoops to get on another United Airlines flight.

“I got a 10:45 flight canceled at 12:45 p.m.,” he said. “Then the second text, which I apparently didn’t read carefully enough to 12:45 was canceled to 4:45 p.m. So, now I am trying to see if there’s another flight, that we can get in the meantime.”

He and his girlfriend are trying to get his parents home in New Jersey to spend Christmas.

“It’s a bummer, it sucks,” said Allcorn. “My dad was texting me like, hey it's fine if your flight doesn’t leave till 12:45 p.m., ‘cause dinner starts at 5 p.m. But now you know my flight is at 4:45, so I am definitely going to miss a pretty decent chunk of the night. Yea it’s not great.”

FlightAware reports 175 flights were called off Friday by United and 69 on Saturday. Delta canceled 145 flights and 111 for Christmas day. Impacting flights at Palm Beach International Airport but most of all in Fort Lauderdale.

In a statement Thursday, when the cancellations first began, United Airlines blamed the cancellations on staffing shortages due to COVID-19.

Kevin exile was heading to Houston, Texas to spend time with family for Christmas –he booked his flight three months in advance to have it canceled.

“Yes, three months in advance. So, I wish they could just send something that said hey we’re canceling flights, like send an email, like a mass email, but apparently they haven’t,” he said, “so this is kind of devastating to me.”

But not all the passengers faced the same headache. Gustavo Alvarez and his family got rescheduled for a later time to arrive at the Big Apple.

“Everything is fine. I am waiting for the moment to board and to spend merry Christmas in New York City,” he said.

United Airlines has apologized to its impacted passengers and are re-booking customers as best they can to get them to their destinations for the holidays.