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COVID surge leaves thousands stranded at airports

3,000+ flights canceled since Friday - CBS' Jonathan Vigliotti reports from LAX

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (CBS News) - It was a difficult Christmas weekend for thousands of Americans. Many travelers found themselves on epic journeys after COVID-19 took pilots, flight attendants, and airline staff out of commission on the busiest travel period of the year.

Since Friday, airlines have canceled more than 3,000 since Friday, and there are more cancellations to come.

"I think I felt pretty deflated. I felt dispirited," said traveler Rohit Tejwani.

Spending Christmas Eve alone in an airport hotel room, wasn't what Tejwani had in mind for the holidays this year.

"Midway through my first flight, got a notification that my connecting flight was canceled and that there were no other flights for the day. And the next earliest flight was going to be the following afternoon, which would mean that I was going to miss being at home for Christmas and miss Christmas Eve with my family," he says.

Tejwani was told his flight was canceled because of COVID-related airline crew shortages.

"It's frustrating that the pandemic still keeps affecting our lives in so many different ways, even two years out," he says.

And he wasn't alone. More than 2,000 flights were cancelled on Saturday and Sunday, in part due to COVID.

United Airlines said:

"The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation."

-Statement from United Airlines

"Omicron is the Grinch that stole Christmas from a lot of airline travelers this weekend."

Henry Harteveldt is a travel industry analyst.

"Airlines can't operate flights without the required number of pilots and flight attendants. Safety comes first," says Harteveldt.

And now several airlines are calling on the CDC to update its COVID guidance for the fully-vaccinated, and reduce the quarantine isolation period from ten days to five for those who have breakthrough cases.

"The government approved this request for the healthcare industry. And honestly, if it's good enough for hospital workers, for nurses and doctors, I think it should be good enough for the airline industry as well," he says.

It wasn't just trouble in the skies. The cruise ship industry is also facing COVID disruptions. Three cruise lines had outbreaks onboard in the last week, with dozens of passengers testing positive and forced to quarantine.

"You had to be fully vaccinated, and you had to have a negative test two days before. I mean, what more they do before you boarded the ship," says Tom Robinson, a Carnival Cruise passenger.

Harteveldt says the best thing to do it you're traveling this week, and especially flying, is to sign up for text alerts so you can stay on top of any potential changes.

Article Topic Follows: Travel

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Lisa Sturgis

Lisa Sturgis Lisa got her first job in TV news at KYMA in 1987.


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