ATLANTA - It was a travel nightmare for thousands of passengers this Christmas Eve. Across the country, airlines are canceling hundreds of flights, dozens of them in Atlanta.
"I heard about it right before we left for the airport. I saw something, but I haven't heard anything for our flight," Michael Kaufman said. He and his wife were traveling from Atlanta to Chicago.
United Airlines canceled 185 flights nationwide, two of which were in Atlanta. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines canceled 163 flights, 50 of those were in Atlanta.
Monica Kalicki's flight to Phoenix to spend Christmas with her daughter was one of the canceled flights.
"Yes, the flight was canceled due to mechanical difficulties," Kalicki said.
Both airlines say the rise in COVID-19 cases also played a role in numerous cancellations, and both say they are trying to rebook passengers as quickly as possible.
That also posed a challenge for Kalicki.
"No, we could have flown out 11 o'clock tomorrow morning but our daughter got us on an American flight at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning so we'll get there earlier than they would have," she said.
Some passengers got a heads-up from family or friends impacted by the cancellations, with some faring better than others.
"My friend texted me last night because she flew out and she was saying her flight was canceled, so I immediately tried to look at our flight to see if it was canceled but it was not thankfully," Anjanette Henderson said.
In a statement released Friday, United wrote:
"The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport. We’re sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays."
Delta also released a statement that reads:
"Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources -- including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying -- before canceling around 135 flights for Friday. We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans. Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight. Customers are encouraged to check delta.com or the Fly Delta app for updates related to their specific flight."
The airlines are urging passengers to check their flights and the airlines for updates.