Air travelers still plagued by long lines as COVID-19, weather cause delays, cancellations

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Airports across the country are still seeing an impact from COVID-19 and severe weather.

The combination has resulted in a perfect storm that has caused hundreds of cancellations across the United States as millions of Americans make their way home following the holidays.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS viewers have reached out, saying they’ve been waiting hours to get their bags — or even get off the tarmac.

Nationwide, the cancellations have stacked up so high, many airlines are now offering double and even triple pay to flight crews who pick up additional shifts.

As of Monday evening at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, there were more than 75 flights canceled and roughly 90 delays.

This past weekend, there were more than 350 flights delayed Sunday, and nearly 100 were canceled.

Some travelers say their airlines did not post flight updates online or in their apps, so they did not know their flights had been called off until they arrived to the airport.

"They go, ‘No, the flight’s canceled for today. We have no flights out. We have none even for tomorrow,’ they told me. At that point, I was baffled. I really was upset," said Rosemary Jones, whose flight to Seattle was canceled.

Jones said she was originally booked on Sun Country Airlines from MSP to Seattle on Sunday.

"I have to get back to work tomorrow because I already missed today a whole day of work today, so now I have to go to another airline and pay more money," Jones said. "At the holiday season, when people are going to see their loved ones, when it’s time for you to go home, you shouldn’t have to feel like you’re stranded and paying that kind of money."

By 5 p.m. Monday, more than 3,100 flights across the country had been canceled, according to FlightAware.

This is all happening at one of the busiest times for airports during the year.

Video showed the lines at MSP Airport Sunday morning as thousands tried to fly out of Minneapolis.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with one Minnesota couple who stood in line for more than an hour, only to have their flight canceled.

"Everything is wait-listed," Moura Howerton, whose flight was canceled, said. "So, we could get on another flight today and another flight and another flight and then tomorrow morning, and nothing was going to be a guaranteed flight."

"Need to get here and if we schedule something else and it gets canceled, we have money invested in the cruise so we need to get down there," said Brad Howerton.

The Howertons are now going to drive to their destination.

However, although traffic in the lunch hour lightened up compared to the morning, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says staffing shortages could continue as more and more employees come down with COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which owns and operates MSP, said more than 26,000 passengers were projected to go through TSA checkpoints at MSP on Monday. Passenger bookings for the rest of the week are lower, between about 19,000 and 25,000 per day, although those projections are likely to change.

The MAC spokesperson said, "The best advice would be for customers to continue to stay in contact with their airlines to get the latest status for their flights so they’re not caught off guard if there’s a change."

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Health issued an update Monday afternoon that the airport’s COVID-19 testing site moved to an appointment-only format in an effort to reduce the size of crowds at the airport.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with one passenger who is now attempting his third flight Tuesday after getting back-to-back flight cancellations out of MSP Airport.

"When I was boarding my flight in Calgary, I got told my flight was canceled and got rescheduled to 6 p.m. today," said traveler Geordie Laird. "So once I landed here, I went to the desk to try to get an earlier flight, got rescheduled to 10:30 a.m. today, and this morning, they canceled all flights to DCA to the Reagan Airport in DC, so now I’m being rescheduled to 6 p.m. tomorrow."

Video of Terminal One check-in lines Monday morning showed lines barely moved in 30 minutes, and security checkpoints took as long as 40 minutes at times.

The problems don’t stop there: One viewer stated on Twitter that when he landed at MSP, he and other travelers waited at least 40 minutes on the plane for an open gate, and then another 90 minutes at baggage claim to get his bags.

Laird said he waited even longer for his.

"Last night I got here knowing my flight was canceled so I went to baggage claims and there were, I don’t think I’ve ever seen many people crowded around baggage carousels and there were like 6 flight names on each one and I couldn’t find my, like the Calgary flight on any of them, so I went up to a Delta employee and she sid it would be like 2+ hours until the bags start coming out," said Laird.

Saturday’s single-day U.S. total of all grounded flights was the highest since just before Christmas when staffing shortages began.

Winter weather across the country didn’t help, either.

Major snowstorms hit Michigan, Denver and Chicago, forcing Southwest to stop all flights out of both Midway and O’Hare airports. Winter weather is moving to the East Coast Monday, which could cause even more delays for people traveling to places like Virginia to New Jersey.

Just after Christmas, MSP Airport posted a tweet asking for feedback in a survey: