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New year brings more cancelled flights for air travellers

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For air travellers, the new year picked up where the old one left off – with lots of frustration.

By late Saturday afternoon, more than 2,600 U.S. flights and nearly 4,600 worldwide had been cancelled, according to tracking service FlightAware.

That is the highest single-day U.S. toll yet since just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staffing shortages on increasing COVID-19 infections among crews. More than 12,000 U.S. flights have been cancelled since December 24.

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Saturday’s disruptions weren’t just due to the virus, however. Wintry weather made Chicago — where forecasts called for 9 inches (23 centimetres) of snow — the worst place in the country for travellers. More than 800 flights were scrubbed at O’Hare Airport and more than 250 at Midway Airport.

Southwest Airlines suspended operations at both Chicago airports because of the forecast, according to an airline spokeswoman. She said Southwest knows from years of operating at Midway that high winds and blowing snow make it hard to get planes back in the air quickly.

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