More than 3,000 flights canceled on Christmas morning

It’s a blue Christmas for some travelers this year, as airlines have already canceled more than 3,000 flights and delayed over 9,600 others before noon Eastern Time on Sunday. A combination of harsh winter weather and a continued lack of staffing has contributed to the problem.

On Christmas Eve, airlines worldwide denied 5,775 flights and delayed nearly 19,000 more, according to the watchdog site FlightAware. Of this total, around 3,488 were canceled flights into, within or out of the USA.

Those numbers are well above last year’s, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics: In December 2021, about 420 flights a day were canceled on average and only about 3,800 were delayed.

Thank you very much Winter storm ElliottSouthwest Airlines ranked worst among US-based airlines for Sunday morning on-time departures, with 471 cancellations (about 12% of the entire schedule) and 1,112 delays (30%).

Southwest Airlines flight

Southwest recorded more flight delays and cancellations than any other major US airline during the Christmas holiday season.

Getty Images

According to the travel industry blog View from the Wing, Southwest has suffered from a shortage of pilots and ramp agents. The customer service phone line has been so besieged that it reportedly stopped taking calls. On Saturday, the airline issued a “state of operational emergency” at its hub, Denver International Airport, where nearly half (46%) of all flights were delayed.

“With more than half of the airports where we operate in the continental United States under duress from the storm, Southwest is uniquely affected, given our size and structure,” Southwest said in an advisory.

Delta came in a close second for the most lost flights on Christmas morning, with 445 cancellations and 231 delays.

“The decision to cancel flights is never one Delta takes lightly, especially during the holiday season,” the airline said in a statement on its website. “But the safety of our customers and our people is paramount. We strive to cancel flights well in advance of scheduled departure to allow our customers to adjust their plans before heading to the airport.”

United, the next closest carrier, recorded just 145 cancellations and 312 delays.


Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest, led to delayed and canceled flights this Christmas.

Thanks to frigid temperatures and the threat of black ice, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta’s U.S. hub, had the most disruptions of any airport anywhere on Earth on Sunday — 94 canceled and 109 delayed outbound flights. Another 119 flights scheduled to arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson were grounded and 94 delayed.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency that will last until Monday “to mitigate potential impacts of this winter weather.”

Read on: How to avoid flight delays and cancellations

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