Sea-Tac hit by cancellations as COVID scolds vacation travel around the world

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Airlines canceled dozens of flights to and from Seattle Tacoma International Airport on Friday, as a surge in omicron variant coronavirus infections scolded global travel and slashed vacation plans millions of travelers.

Of the arrivals and departures at Sea-Tac Airport, 28 were canceled and 105 others were delayed by 4:10 p.m., according to the FlightAware website. Cancellations affected 12 scheduled departures, or 2% of all departures, and 14 scheduled arrivals (2%), according to FlightAware.

Airlines reporting cancellations on Friday included Delta, with 14, or 9% of its scheduled flights to or from Sea-Tac; United, with five (17%); Alaska, with five (1%); JetBlue, with two (33%); and Spirit, with two (50%), according to FlightAware.

Another 39 cancellations were reported for scheduled flights to or from Sea-Tac Airport on Christmas Day and eight more for Sunday at 4:10 p.m., FlightAware reported.

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In an emailed statement, airport communications manager Kate Hudson recommended affected travelers “contact their airline directly.”

Thom Andretti and his wife, Elizabeth Tayez, of Seattle, canceled their Alaska Air flight between Sea-Tac Airport and Detroit on Sunday hours before their scheduled departure, but were able to find another flight. “We called almost immediately and they booked us for the next day on a Delta flight at 6am,” Andretti said.

Airlines on Thursday reported 23 cancellations and 212 delays for scheduled flights to or from Sea-Tac Airport, according to FlightAware.

The cancellations and delays at Sea-Tac Airport come as airlines around the world canceled some 3,000 flights scheduled for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, in addition to the 2,000 flights that were canceled on Thursday , according to FlightAware. The website reported that more than a fifth of flights canceled for Friday involved travel within, to or from the United States.

As of 4:10 p.m. Friday, FlightAware was reporting 660 cancellations on Friday in the United States and a total of 2,388 worldwide. The site also reported 555 cancellations in the United States for flights scheduled for Christmas and 121 for Sunday.

Many airlines have attributed the disruption to the surge in COVID-19 cases, which has left airlines understaffed.

United Airlines said in a statement Thursday that it was canceling 120 flights on Friday because the omicron variant has had “a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operations.”

Delta said in a statement that its teams had “exhausted all options and resources before canceling approximately 158 flights on the schedule of nearly 3,100 flights on Friday” due to weather events and spikes in air cases. omicron.

Passenger volume at Sea-Tac Airport has increased over the past two weeks as tens of thousands of travelers braced for what until recently was hoped to be a partial return to normal.

The airport expects the number of arriving, departing and connecting passengers to average 124,000 per day for the week of Dec. 19-25 and 131,000 the following week, Hudson said. . The busiest days of the vacation travel season are expected to be Dec. 27, with 139,000 travelers, and Dec. 30, with 136,000, Hudson said.

“This is about 80 to 90% of the passenger volume we saw before the pandemic in 2019,” Hudson said.

The vacation season is the second busiest travel period at Sea-Tac Airport, after the summer season, said Hudson.

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Information from the Washington Post was included in this report.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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