TAMPA, Fla. — If you're finalizing plans to hop on a plane or pick up loved ones at the Tampa International Airport, you may want to check on your flight status before you head to the airport.
Hundreds of flights across the U.S. are being canceled due to rising omicron variant COVID-19 cases and possible inclement weather.
According to FlightAware, about 510 flights within, into, or out of the U.S. on Christmas Eve have been canceled so far. Most come from United and Delta.
It's a domino effect that eventually made its way to the Tampa Bay area.
At TPA, many midday flights have been canceled or delayed, according to the airport's website. Most of them appear to be either United or Delta flights.
The flights account for only about four percent of the traffic in and out of TPA, but if you’re on one of those flights on Christmas trying to visit family, or head out on a vacation, it’s a major inconvenience.
“I’m pretty concerned right now,” said Angie Mason from Illinois. Mason was planning to spend this Christmas Eve in New Mexico. A family trip that is now in jeopardy because of the wave of cancellations and delays impacting the flights.
“Planned this for months. And you think everything is going to go smoothly, but that’s not always how everything works,” said Mason.
Throughout the day, the arrival and departure boards at Tampa International told the story.
Chris and Stephanie Fadigan were still uncertain whether the cascading delays would mean pulling the plug on a long-planned trip to Ecuador.
At this point, the newlyweds were considering an available flight to Vegas rather than gambling on spending their holiday stranded between airports.
“That was our plan,” said Stephanie. “Something. We didn‘t know where.”
“We can go anywhere from there,” added Chris. “Drive to a national park or something, make the best of it.”
With more cancellations possible on Christmas Eve and Christmas, it's a good idea to check with your airline about your flight status.
United Airlines said in a statement that the spike in omicron variant cases this week across the nation forced it to cancel some flights due to cases among crewmembers assigned to them.
"As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport," United said in a statement.
Delta is also seeing cancellations due to COVID-19. The airline confirmed the variant was one of the causes, including potential inclement weather in some areas, in a statement.
“Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources -- including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying -- before canceling around 135 flights for Friday," company officials said. "We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans. Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight.”
Alaska Airlines is also saying many of its employees had been exposed to the virus and were following the company's quarantine guidelines at home.
"We apologize to our guests impacted by the cancellations that may have taken a bit of the merry out of this holiday season," Alaska said in a statement. "We realize it’s incredibly frustrating when travel doesn’t go as planned, especially now as many of us are eager to connect with family and friends."
Christmas is one of the busiest times to travel in the U.S., with AAA predicting more than 109 million people traveling more than 50 miles sometime over the holiday period.
2020 faced a low amount of travelers because of lockdowns and coronavirus fears. But as vaccines become more widespread nationwide, travelers are beginning to see family whom they may not have visited for years. 2021's estimated totals are about 92% of 2019 travel levels, according to AAA.
The omicron variant of the virus appears to be even more contagious than the dominant delta strain, even among the vaccinated, although it does not appear that the newest strain of concern is as deadly as previous versions of the virus.
TEGNA's Chris McCrory contributed to this report.