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Cancellations and delays pose problems for airline passengers on Christmas Eve

Weather and COVID to blame
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Posted at 4:17 PM, Dec 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-24 18:15:58-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Getting home for Christmas has been a challenge for travelers all over the world this year, as inclement weather in the North East and the spread of the omicron variant have led to cancellations of hundreds of flights and caused even more delays.

At Tampa International Airport, travelers were feeling the impact of the delays on Christmas Eve.

An airport spokesperson told us that only 19 incoming or outgoing flights were canceled Friday, but throughout the day, a growing number of delays showed up on the departure and arrival boards at TPA.

That was a result of issues at major hubs like Atlanta, Dallas and Miami.

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Nafi Cunningham and her son were among those flying out of TPA trying to go to other countries. She said she planned a trip months ago to visit her family in Dakar, Senegal.

“This is his first trip to my homeland and we’re excited. The family’s waiting for us,” Cunningham said Friday.

She had just finished rebooking her flight.

Her connecting flight in New York was among 175 flights United Airlines canceled nationwide on Friday.

RELATED: Flight cancellations to last into weekend, Delta says

“My flight’s been rebooked several times. When I arrived, it said my flight was on time and then they told me my flight has been delayed, so they had to rebook me and reroute me a completely different way. Delayed several hours again,” Cunningham said.

Her new flight was aboard American Airlines, where she was scheduled to fly from Miami to Paris to West Africa.

“The only thing is, are there going to be more delays, and am I gonna miss my connecting flight to Dakar? Some prayers are gonna be needed,” Cunningham said.

Caesar Bagui and his family got a call shortly before midnight Thursday informing him that his Jet Blue flight from New York to Tampa had been canceled.

“They actually changed it to Christmas Day and we had to call. It was a big mess,” Bagui said.”We knew we were gonna make it, but it was just a hassle all around. Not happy.”

Some people said they absolutely, positively had to make it to their destinations Christmas Eve, including Geege Ferretjans of St. Petersburg, who describes himself as a “Surfer Santa”.

Ferretjans packed his red Santa Costume in his checked luggage. When he arrives in Cincinnati to see his great-nieces and nephews, he plans to look like Santa himself to kick off his family’s Christmas Eve festivities.

“We’re gonna put the suit on, have a whopping good time, and open presents,” he said.

Geege Ferretjans, who calls himself "Surfer Santa", is flying to visit family in Cincinnati

Fellow passengers did double takes as he walked through the terminal, decked out in a Santa hat and surfer shorts.

The Cunningham still have a few more legs of their journey as they walked to their flight gate. They hope to make it to Africa by late evening Christmas Day.

“Supposedly we should be arriving at 8:35 p.m.,” she said looking at her newly issued ticket.

“I could get stuck in Miami or Paris,” Cunningham said. “Fingers crossed. I hope I’m gonna make it through.“

Airlines are warning that cancellations are expected to continue throughout the weekend, so people should check the status of their flights before heading to the airport.