COVID-19 causes flight cancellations and other travel frustrations around DC

Travelers wait in long lines to check their bags at Ronald Reagan National Airport. (Luke Lukert/WTOP)

Dozens of flights in and out of Washington-area airports were canceled over the holiday weekend. Flight cancellations continued Monday, but those weren’t the only issues travelers ran into.

Even in the early morning hours, lines at the check-in counters at both Delta and American Airlines stretched the halls of Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on Monday. Still, most of the flyers WTOP spoke with had no issues with their travel experience, except waiting to check a bag.

Jean, who was headed back to Fort Myers, Florida, said there were no issues with the check-in process and she was “very confident” that her flight would not be one of the flights canceled.

“I take this fight about every other week,” she told WTOP.

Dozens of flights have been canceled at Reagan National Airport. (Luke Lukert/WTOP)

But other flights from Reagan National to Chicago, Minneapolis and Phoenix, among others, were scrapped Monday morning. And even more inbound flights had been canceled for the airport closest to D.C.

These local experiences contributed to the massive list of cancellations that travelers saw nationwide over the Christmas weekend.

FlightAware, a flight-tracking website, said nearly 1,000 flights entering, leaving or inside the U.S. were canceled Saturday, up from 690 flights scrapped on Friday. Sunday saw the worst spate of cancellations, with over 1,500 flights canceled in the U.S.

As of midmorning Monday, there were already 788 flight cancellations.

Delta, United and JetBlue have all said that the omicron variant of COVID-19 was causing staffing problems leading to flight cancellations.

According to FlightAware, those three airlines canceled more than 10% of their scheduled Saturday flights. American Airlines also canceled more than 90 flights Saturday, about 3% of its schedule, according to FlightAware.

But along with canceled flights, travelers ran into other problems — specifically COVID testing delays.

Anne from Fredericksburg and her family were headed to Antigua for a little fun in the sun post-Christmas. To enter the Caribbean island, you have to have a negative COVID test.

“We had to get them three days ago, because that’s the timeline,” said Anne. “We were supposed to have our COVID testing results by yesterday and two people in our family their tests aren’t back yet. So they’re not allowing you to get on the plane.”

Anne said it was frustrating to follow all the protocols that were required and still not get the tests back in time.

“We are going to try to get a flight for them tomorrow. Yeah … they were all booked, but we’ll see.”


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