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Thousands Of Flights Cancelled Over Christmas Weekend; Cancellations And Delays Continue Monday As Employees Call In Sick Due To Omicron

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With no way home and thousands of flights canceled from coast to coast over the holiday weekend, many travelers were still stuck at airports as airline employees are calling in sick because of Omicron.

According to the flight-tracking website FlightAware, more than 16,000 flights were delayed worldwide on Sunday, including more than 7,000 within, into, or out of the U.S. More than 3,200 flights were cancelled, including more than 1,500 within, into, or out of the United States.

That comes on the heels of nearly 1,700 flights cancelled on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day combined.

Problems continued Monday morning, with more than 7,600 flights delayed worldwide as of 9:30 a.m. Chicago time, including more than 2,400 within, into, or out of the U.S., according to FlightAware. More than 2,500 flights worldwide have been cancelled as of Monday morning, including more than 950 within, into, or out of the U.S.

In Chicago alone, more than 270 flights have been delayed in the past 24 hours at O'Hare International Airport, and 84 flights have been cancelled; while at Midway International Airport, 153 flights have been delayed and 30 have been cancelled in the past 24 hours.

Staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 are partly behind the holiday travel headaches.

Since Christmas Eve, more than 3 million people flew for the holidays, but things have not been smooth for many.

Traveling during the holidays can be hectic, but this year it's even more so. Just ask Cathy Grindstaff.

Her family left for Maui last week to enjoy Christmas and her 50th birthday. But the delayed flight there was nothing to celebrate.

"Our plane, I don't think left until about 9. It was delayed by several hours," she said. "And then we missed our connection, couldn't get on an earlier flight, we're a family of six."

The flight gods didn't do much to help out on their return flight to Chicago, either. It was also delayed.

"I think staffing issues. They were waiting for a couple pilots to come back from a prior flight to be able to take off in Maui," she said.

Airlines have said staffing issues and sick calls are behind the surge in flight delays and cancellations over the holiday weekend.

Delta and United had some of the most planes grounded, and they pointed to Omicron variant as a cause.

But it's not all bad. There are some whose flights are still on time. The best part for Kyra Carpenter and her family was they're heading to Punta Cana on Monday.

"It's 21 of us going. Family trip," she said.

And they're doing their best to focus on anything but the fear of COVID-19.

"We're vaccinated, booster shots. We're just ready to travel," Carpenter said.

While airlines have largely blamed COVID-19 for the holiday travel headaches, some of the cancelled and delayed flights over the weekend could be related to winter weather in some parts of the country.

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