CHICAGO - The omicron variant is upending holiday plans and leading to thousands of flight cancellations worldwide, as airlines experience a high-volume of staff and crew calling out sick.
More than 2,400 flights were canceled and more than 10,000 flights were delayed around the globe on Christmas Eve.
As of Friday evening, more than 670 flights within, into, or out of the U.S. were canceled on Christmas Eve; 26 of those were out of O’Hare International Airport. Nationwide, more than 3,000 flights were delayed.
"Definitely concerned, hoping it won’t be canceled, and it will be a little bit of a Christmas miracle," said Kacie Soltis, who was traveling to Ohio.
With packed bags and boarding passes printed, millions of Americans are trying to get home for the holidays. But many travelers, on Friday, found themselves wondering if they'd make it to their destinations – checking their flight status amid the hundreds of cancellations nationwide.
"I was nervous and so far we’re still on time," said Donna Turetgen, traveling to San Antonio.
Amid the latest COVID surge, United Airlines and Delta are both experiencing a massive increase in sick calls.
Without enough crew members to get flights off the ground, United Airlines canceled nearly 200 flights Friday; Delta called off more than 170 flights, according to FlightAware.
"Our flight was canceled late last night. We got rebooked to go tomorrow," said Francesca Larsen, who was headed to Los Angeles.
Luckily for Larsen and her family, who plan to spend Christmas at Disneyland, space opened up on another flight Christmas Eve.
"I’m actually hoping this works out, and we get on this flight tonight," said Larsen.
Others had to shuffle their plans.
"My flight was delayed for about three hours," said Arielle Chase, who landed at O’Hare Friday afternoon. "I was supposed to go home to Florida for the holiday, but people ended up getting sick, so I decided not to go, so I’m meeting my boyfriend for the weekend."
Some said until their flight takes off, they’d be keeping their fingers crossed.
"It will be nice to get on the plane, get a glass a wine, and just chill," said Mary Gooding, who was traveling to the Netherlands.
"I think we just have to be patient and hope for the best," said Turetgen.
Additional delays and cancellations are expected on Christmas. Travelers are encouraged to check their flight status online before heading to the airport.