ATLANTA — Thousands of travelers woke up to a Christmas Eve nightmare after Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines alerted passengers their flights were canceled.
Delta is one of several major airlines delaying and canceling flights ahead of Christmas, citing a worker shortage due to COVID-19.
“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," a Delta spokesperson said in a statement.
According to flight-tracking website FlightAware, Delta canceled 39 flights out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and another 22 were listed as delayed Friday morning. The Atlanta-based airline has canceled nearly 140 flights out of the U.S., according to listings.
"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,” an airline spokesperson said.
As frustration builds, there are a few options for travelers.
Create a Plan B before you fly
With the coronavirus pandemic and mass cancellations, it is imperative that people hoping to fly around the holidays have backup plans for worst-case scenarios.
That could mean having a way to get to and from an airport in case of delays or cancellations and having an idea of lodging in the area. Keeping snacks and water at the ready can help especially if food is hard to find. Financial experts recommend planning for delays with extra funds in case one needs to purchase extra meals, a new flight, or any emergencies.
Check if your flight is canceled
Before making the trek to the airport, double-check flight times.
This can be done by checking websites like FlightAware, searching flight numbers in a search engine like Google, checking an airline's website or downloading the airline's app for immediate notifications.
An easy way to predict if a flight will be canceled is to try and book the same flight as if purchasing a new ticket. If the flight number doesn't show up, that’s typically an indication the flight would be canceled in the days to come or it's no longer for purchase. This is especially helpful for international flights.
What to do if your flight is canceled
First, be patient.
Amid worker shortages and coronavirus concerns, airline workers are trying to find efficient solutions. If a flight was canceled last-minute, their solution might take a second to sort out.
Find other flight times with other airlines, call your airline's customer service line, and try to speak with an agent immediately. These are the ways one could get accommodations, a waiver or rebook a ticket. Make sure to keep flight information handy for all of these options.
Oftentimes, agents can help rebook flights or at least offer flight credit. Remember this doesn't always have to be done at the airport. If travel is time-sensitive, it's OK to rebook a flight on another airline and deal with the issue remotely. In-person is better but staying on top of the issue, in general, will get results.
To note, the U.S. Department of Transportation says if a flight is canceled for any reason and the traveler chooses not to be rebooked on that airline, the passenger is entitled to a full refund.