By MATT O’BRIEN – Associated Press
Winter weather combined with the pandemic to frustrate air travelers whose return flights from vacation have been canceled or delayed in the early days of the new year.
More than 2,500 US flights and more than 4,100 around the world were grounded on Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware.
This followed Saturday’s massive cancellations of more than 2,700 flights in the United States and more than 4,700 worldwide.
“It was absolute chaos,” said Natasha Enos, who spent a sleepless Saturday and Sunday morning at Denver International Airport during what was supposed to be a short layover on a trip across the country from Washington to San Francisco.
The one-day U.S. toll of ground flights on Saturday was the highest since just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staff shortages on rising COVID-19 infections among crews.
A winter storm that hit the Midwest on Saturday made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers throughout the weekend. About a quarter of all flights at O’Hare Airport were canceled on Sunday.
Denver Airport also faced significant disruption. Enos, who flew on Frontier Airlines, did not learn that her connecting flight to California had been canceled until she had already landed in Denver. Then it was a rush to find alternative flights and navigate baggage claims filled with stranded and confused travelers, amid concerns about the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19.