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The Omicron That Stole Christmas: 100s of U.S. Flights Canceled Amid Rising Cases

The Omicron That Stole Christmas: 100s of U.S. Flights Canceled Amid Rising Cases

U.S. airlines canceled hundreds of flights on Christmas Eve amid a surge in COVID-19 infections driven by the Omicron variant but millions of wary Americans carried on with travel plans through a second pandemic-clouded winter holiday.

Both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines canceled dozens of Christmas Eve flights because of staff shortages amid the surge in infections. United canceled 177 flights and Delta Airlines canceled 150 flights, data from the website FlightAware showed on Friday. More than 2,100 flights globally were scrapped, with 527 cancellations within, into, or out of the United States, according to the site.

View of a deserted terminal at Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) on November 10, 2020, amid the Coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Thursday screened 2,187,792 passengers through U.S. airports, a decrease of about 364,000 over the number of travelers it screened pre-pandemic on the same date in 2019.

While U.S. officials have said that people who are fully vaccinated should feel comfortable proceeding with holiday travel, Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned Americans to keep their celebrations small and limited only to close family members who are fully vaccinated and boosted. But despite the warning, many were determined to enjoy some semblance of a holiday tradition.


Travel plans aren’t the only ones being canceled. Even people staying put have had to make adjustments due to the explosion of Omicron cases nationwide. In especially hard-hit New York City, “Hamilton” was just one of a dozen Broadway shows forced to cancel shows this week when cast and crew members tested positive for COVID-19. The famous Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall featuring the Rockettes was also shut down earlier than usual due to the virus.

Omicron’s rapid spread will also put a damper on New York’s iconic New Year’s Eve celebration for a second straight year. Mayor Bill de Blasio said attendance for the midnight ball drop in Times Square will be capped at 15,000, roughly a quarter of the typical pre-pandemic crowd size.

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