Even with the holidays well behind us, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is continuing to impact air travel, causing delays and cancellations at airports in Iowa and around the country.
Kyle Potter, the executive editor of Thrifty Traveler-dot-com, says recent bouts with wintery weather are only making a bad situation worse for air travelers.
“The undercurrent of all of this, from Christmas and New Year’s and all the way back through the fall and summer and even spring of 2021,” he says, “these kinds of mass cancellations have become really routine.”
Reports say around 5,ooo flights were canceled nationwide just last weekend, with Southwest Airlines alone suspending more than a thousand flights. Des Moines International Airport reports it canceled around 30 flights during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, with more in the days that followed.
“The reason why is that airlines have just stretched themselves way too thin because they’re much smaller than they were heading into the pandemic,” Potter says, “and they just don’t have the kind of wiggle room to operate a reliable schedule when things go wrong.”
For Iowans who plan to fly sometime soon, he recommends being proactive and closely monitoring the status of your flight. “Airlines don’t always do the best job about automatically notifying customers when they’ve canceled or delayed a flight,” Potter says. “Especially as you get to the two weeks leading up to your trip or so, I would just constantly check on things, maybe once a day.”
Reports say Southwest was offering double pay for staff who agreed to take extra shifts last week. Just like other industries, airlines are dealing with escalating numbers of illnesses among pilots and staff, many due to COVID.