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More canceled flights into and out of Las Vegas add to travel woes

Updated December 27, 2021 - 2:53 pm

More than 50 flights were canceled at Harry Reid International Airport by mid-afternoon Monday as the nation continues to grapple with airline flight cancellations due to winter weather and staffing shortages caused by COVID-19.

Despite the cancellations, operations were described as normal at Harry Reid, formerly McCarran, by the online tracking site FlightAware.

Cancellations for flights either departing or arriving at Harry Reid were reported Monday morning by Spirit, Alaska, Allegiant Air and United, but it appeared most of the flights to and from Las Vegas were on time and on schedule.

Monday’s scratches came after hundreds of flights were canceled across the nation over the holiday weekend. On Christmas Day, FlightAware reported nearly 1,000 canceled flights entering, leaving or flying within the U.S. Hundreds more were canceled Sunday, including 84 flight cancellations at Harry Reid, according to FlightAware.

Airport spokesman Joe Rajchel said 54 flights had been canceled by mid-afternoon Monday. He did not have total numbers for weekend cancellations at Harry Reid.

Flight delays and cancellations tied to staffing shortages have been a constant this year. Airlines encouraged workers to quit in 2020 when air travel collapsed and have struggled to make up ground this year when air travel rebounded faster than almost anyone had expected.

Delta, United, JetBlue and American have all said that the coronavirus was causing staffing problems, but weather and other factors played a role as well.

Winter weather in the Pacific Northwest led to nearly 250 flight cancellations to or from Seattle on Sunday, said Alaska Airlines, and the airline expected more than 100 flight cancellations Monday. But it says that crews calling out sick because of COVID-19 is no longer a factor.

A spokesperson for Alaska said six flights at Harry Reid were canceled because the aircraft for those flights were out of position due to the wintry weather in Seattle.

United said it canceled 115 flights Monday, out of more than 4,000 scheduled, due to crews out with COVID-19.

Harry Reid’s busiest carrier, Southwest, has seen relatively few cancellations compared to other airlines, with just 67 canceled flights nationwide and only two of those tied to Harry Reid. However, Southwest has seen the most flights delayed at Las Vegas’ airport, with 115 impacted flights, according to FlightAware.

A Southwest spokesperson said its delays are solely caused by weather issues and not tied to operational issues related to COVID.

Las Vegas’ hometown carrier Allegiant canceled six flights at Harry Reid on Monday, with those tied to weather and COVID impacts on staff, company spokeswoman Hilarie Grey said.

Airlines have called on the Biden administration to shorten the guidelines for the isolation period for vaccinated workers who get COVID-19, in order to ease staffing shortages. The union for flight attendants has pushed back against that, saying the isolation period should remain 10 days.

Air travel dropped steeply in 2020 and has recovered throughout 2021. Transportation Security Administration data show passengers screened at TSA checkpoints during the holiday season up significantly from last year — on some days double the number of fliers or even more — but generally still short of 2019 levels.

The U.S. government requires vaccinations of foreigners coming to the U.S. as well as a negative COVID test of both U.S. citizens and foreigners flying into the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said on Monday that the U.S. should also “seriously” consider a vaccination mandate for domestic travel as another way to push people to get vaccinated.

With the usually busy New Year’s Eve weekend in Las Vegas coming up, Allegiant said it is tough to predict what kind of delays or cancellations are on the horizon, but said that further flight impacts are expected.

“We do anticipate additional delays and cancellations this week, unfortunately,” Grey said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter. Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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