SFO delays, cancellations tied to sick airline staff as omicron surges across US

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Call it the nightmare before Christmas, as the fast-moving omicron surge forced thousands of flight cancellations worldwide.

SFO staff tell ABC7 News more than 100 flights have been delayed and dozens canceled as of Thursday night - a tiny fraction of the hundreds reported nationwide.

RELATED: Delta, United airlines canceling some Christmas Eve flights due to omicron surge

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," said Gwen Porea, a Bay Area United passenger traveling to Houston. "The number of cancellations keeps going up."

A holiday hazard - families stranded paired with infected airline staff. Major airlines including United, Delta, Jet Blue, Allegiant, Skywest, and American canceled hundreds of flights across the U.S. The airports most impacted are Newark, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Bay Area resident Jack Mentges dealt with a cancellation followed by a delay.

"We're trying to get to Seattle," said Mentges. "We were on that 12:50 flight but it's had trouble and now we're stuck waiting."

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Doctors are sharing the personal choices they are making during the holidays amid omicron variant fears.

The Nair family fears the same dilemma.

"We've been constantly checking all kinds of different websites," said Dhanya Nair, attempting to take her family on their first vacation in three years. "Crossing our fingers hoping we can make this trip."

Their backup plan?

"I guess go home," said Nair. "We've been rethinking the safety."

Omicron now makes up roughly 50 to 70 percent of new COVID cases in California. Bay Area travelers armed in N-95 masks are worried the trip isn't worth the risk.

VIDEO: State recommends COVID testing for travelers entering California
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More than two weeks since Thanksgiving, we're only beginning to understand how gatherings may have impacted COVID-19 case rates across California.

"I'm sure there are people in this terminal right now and on the plane that are positive and don't even know it," said Tim Porea, a Bay Area resident.

As airline staff are stretched thin rerouting resources and scrambling to reschedule flights, some passengers tried to keep the holiday hope alive.

"All we can do is hope for the best right?" said Mentges. "It'll be a Christmas miracle!"

United Airlines has canceled the most flights of any other carrier, more than 200 flights as of early Thursday afternoon, and more than 100 other flights canceled on Christmas Day.

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