By late morning Saturday more than 2,400 U.S. flights had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware. Those passing through Tampa Bay were not spared.
That is the highest single-day toll yet since just before Christmas, when airlines began citing staffing shortages on increasing COVID-19 infections among crews. A set of storms from Oklahoma to Pittsburgh added to the delays. More than 12,000 U.S. flights have been canceled since Dec. 24.
At Tampa International Airport, 60 flights were delayed and 43 were canceled as of Saturday morning, spokesman Beau Zimmer said. The canceled flights make up about 11 percent of one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. The airport was anticipating 72,000 people passing through Saturday and around 80,000 Sunday.
“This is a really busy travel weekend,” Zimmer said. “People are trying to get home.”
Southwest, Spirit and United Airlines have been the most impacted for those passing through Tampa, but Zimmer recommends people check with the airlines about the status of their flight before heading to the airport.
Fourteen flights were canceled over the past 24 hours at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, according to airport spokeswoman Michele Routh. She also said many flights from Sarasota-Bradenton International were being rerouted.
Wintry weather made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers, with 800 flights scrubbed at O’Hare Airport and more than 250 at Midway Airport. Forecasts called for nine inches of snow. Denver, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, were hit with at least 100 cancellations each.
Southwest Airlines, which has major operations at Chicago Midway and Denver, canceled more than 450 flights nationwide, or 13 percent of its schedule, by midmorning. American, Delta, United and JetBlue scrubbed more than 100 flights.
SkyWest, a regional carrier that operates flights under the names American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, grounded more than 400 flights, or 21 percent of its schedule.
Airlines say they are taking steps to reduce cancellations. United is offering to pay pilots triple or more of their usual wages for picking up open flights through mid-January. Southwest and others have also raised premium pay for some workers.