CHICAGO (CBS) — Flexibility and patience are required if you’re flying these days.

Between Omicron, bad weather and staff shortages, air travel is a major wild-card over the next few days and weeks. CBS 2’s Meredith Barack reports from O’Hare International Airport with a look at how one Chicago group is trying to make the best of the situation.

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The group from Chicago is just a small example of the thousands of travelers who had their flights cancelled on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They packed their bags and came up with plan B.

“When we launched this trip early in the summer 2021, everything was really clear, was looking good. Morocco was doing really well with COVID.”

It was a trip Rabbi Shalom Garfinkel and Project 613, a group of Jewish young professionals, were eager and excited for. But like so many travelers this past weekend, things didn’t go as planned.

“The table was literally set after months of work and then Omicron hit,” Garfinkel said. “The next day, they cancelled flights all the way through the end of the year.”

The silver lining- or power of the pivot- as Rabbi Garfinkel likes to call it, is the group learned of the cancellations with plenty of time and was able to quickly rebook. They are now enjoying Poland instead.

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Others, however, haven’t been as lucky as we are now days into thousands of cancellations. A spokesperson for United said they’ve had at least 115 cancellations today due to Omicron staffing issues.

Throughout the weekend, they’ve been contacting passengers early if their flight will be cancelled to allow them time to rebook or make other plans. So far, about 50% of United passengers have arrived at their final destination either early or within four hours of their originally scheduled flight.

“Airlines can’t operate flights without the required number of pilots and flight attendants. Safety comes first,” said travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt.

Late Monday afternoon, several airlines got their wish when the CDC updated its COVID guidance, reducing the quarantine period from 10 days to five.

“Honestly, if it’s good enough for hospital workers, for nurses and doctors, I think it should be good enough for the airline industry,” Harteveldt said.

Passengers on Monday said things were going smoothly for them so far. Hopefully a foreshadow of air travel for the rest of 2021.

 

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Meredith Barack