The thousands of flights cancelled or delayed Saturday and Sunday across the U.S. seemed to have little effect on travelers heading out from Southwest Florida on Sunday.
As of mid-morning Sunday there were 1,988 cancelled flights in the U.S. and 6.450 delays. Those numbers were down from 2,749 cancellations and 12,928 delays on Saturday, according to tracking service FlightAware.
Delays seemed to cause more grief than cancellations did at Southwest Florida. There were 81 cancellations and 216 delays Saturday and by 12:30 p.m. Sunday at RSW.
Saturday’s numbers were the highest single-day U.S. toll since just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staffing shortages on increasing COVID-19 infections among crews. More than 12,000 U.S. flights have been canceled since Dec. 2.
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Sunday — when many travelers planned to return home from holiday trips — had been shaping up to be difficult, too. More than 1,900 flights, including more than 1,000 in the U.S., had been canceled by late Saturday.
Adding to the woes was a winter storm with heavy snow expected to march toward the Northeast as a new storm hits the Pacific Northwest, according to the National Weather Service.
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However, at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, all seemed calm Sunday morning.
“I thought it would be packed. I don’t understand why not,” Marsha Vocado, one of the red-vest wearing customer service ambassadors who help passengers and others find their way around the airport.
The interior of RSW seemed almost vacant around 10 a.m. Sunday with lines at the concourses not even half-way to the full point.
“This is the day I’d go back, Vocado said.
The cancellations and delays weren’t just due to the virus, however. Wintry weather made Chicago — where forecasts called for 9 inches (23 centimeters) of snow — the worst place in the country for travelers.
More than 1,300 flights were scrubbed at O’Hare Airport and more than 300 at Midway Airport on Saturday and Sunday combined.
Airlines say they are taking steps to reduce cancellations. United is offering to pay pilots triple or more of their usual wages for picking up open flights through most of January. Spirit Airlines reached a deal with the Association of Flight Attendants for double pay for cabin crews through Tuesday, said a union spokeswoman.
One family heading back to Reagan International Airport in Washington D.C. made a beeline for the JetBlue baggage counter when they saw their 10:30 flight get bumped to around 1 p.m.
“We got an alert when we were driving here,” Devin Nasvaderani said, as his wife Peggy Sue went to check them in.
The family had been in Southwest Florida for 11 days visiting with family and were anxious to get back home.
“We’re getting out of here one way or the other,” Nasvaderani said. “Even if we have to drive.”
Connect with breaking news reporter Michael Braun: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook), @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter) or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.