THOUSANDS of holidaymakers hoping for a winter getaway have had their trips ruined.
British Airways yesterday scrapped 50 Boxing Day flights from the UK's busiest airport, while Ryanair has announced it is cancelling a third of all flights in January.
Covid chaos triggered a wave of cancellations totalling around 8,300 globally between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.
Airlines have blamed the highly infectious Omicron variant for causing major staff shortages while pilots and cabin crew self-isolate.
A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
The travel disruptions have caused a huge holiday headache for thousands of people travelling during one of the busiest times of the year.
Families have complained of "utter carnage" at Manchester Airport after being hit by a 12-hour delay.
Michael Ackroyd was ready to jet off for a skiing holiday with his family when their flight to Turin had a "leaky toilet".
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They were trapped on board for "three hours" before passengers were escorted off the plane, MEN reports.
After a three-hour wait they were then transferred to another aircraft, before being told the was a shortage of ground staff so it would be a few more hours until they took off.
One passenger said: "With kids on board, no food and the heightened risk of Covid, though everyone should have had a PCR within 48 hours or lateral flow test with 24 hours, tensions are rising, people are distressed and patience is wearing thin.
"To say the conditions are a disgrace is an understatement.
"To the staff onboard the plane's credit, they are keeping calm, answering questions and working hard making phone calls to sort out the mountain of issues this has caused."
Elsewhere, the cancellation of more than 50 British Airways flights – nearly 10 per cent of all departures – at London's Heathrow sparked mayhem.
Yoel Klug, 37, who was travelling to the UK from Israel with his wife and three children, had his flight axed at the last minute.
To say the conditions are a disgrace is an understatement.
He told the i: "This has brought about a number of issues. Booking new flights will cost us between £500-700 more than our originals.
"Our hired car and accommodation arrangements have to be changed.
"We have had to spend our holiday rearranging this and checking it out.
"We’re now uncertain if the other flights will actually leave."
While Yoel was stuck in Israel, around 200 BA passengers were forced to spend Christmas in an airport in Costa Rica after a Boeing 777 suffered a cracked windshield.
China Eastern Airlines cancelled a staggering 546 flights on Christmas Day, and a further 414 on Boxing Day.
In the US, domestic airlines United, Delta and JetBlue have also dropped hundreds of flights over the festive period.
And Lufthansa, Alaska Airlines, Air China and several others have also been forced to cancel flights after aircrew and ground staff have fallen sick or gone into quarantine.
UP IN THE AIR
The cancellations added to the frustration for many people eager to reunite with their families over the holidays after last year's Christmas was severely curtailed.
Thousands have already had to call off trips due to Covid restrictions imposed abroad.
The ban on Brits travelling to France and Germany, and the suspension of all EU flights to and from Morocco, has hit airlines hard.
In response, Ryanair announced it has slashed a third of its flights next month.
The budget airline reported a huge decline in Christmas and New Year bookings, leaving bosses no choice but to cut its planned January schedule capacity by a third.
Travel plans over the festive period are also being badly affected on the ground by a triple threat of industrial action, planned closures and staff shortages due to the pandemic.
Several rail services are currently experiencing disruption due to staff being ill with Covid-19.
TransPennine Express, ScotRail, Avanti West Coast, Northern Rail, LNER and Greater Anglia have all reported an impact on services caused by a lack of available staff.
Meanwhile, East Midlands Railway services continue to be affected by industrial action by the RMT union, with an amended service expected to run on January 2.
A number of routes are also being impacted by planned engineering works, including Southern's Gatwick Airport trains.
In the north, Leeds will have a reduced service, while in the west, CrossCountry has axed some of its usual stops.
Despite the closures, National Rail said that 95 per cent of Britain's rail network will remain open during the festive period.
It added that the 370 engineering projects it is carrying out over Christmas were planned "months, and in some cases years, in advance".
Commuters and travellers to the capital can expect similar travel woes, with the Tube hit by planned closures.
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