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More than 7,000 flights canceled or delayed Monday as winter storm slams East Coast

The messy holiday travel season may be over, but travel troubles are still here.

A winter storm is slamming the East Coast and exacerbating crew staffing challenges tied to the omicron variant of COVID-19. Earlier weather-related ground stops at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport have been lifted, according to the FAA, but across the country, more than 2,900 U.S. flights have been canceled Monday and more than 4,200 have been delayed as of 3 p.m. ET, according to FlightAware, which tracks flight status in real time. 

Thousands of flights have been disrupted each day since Christmas Eve

►The new normal?:What air travelers can expect this winter

►Do your homework: What airlines owe you when flights are canceled, delayed

Travelers line up at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Dec. 30, 2021. Thousands of U.S. flights were canceled or delayed each day of the holiday travel season.

A stressful holiday travel season

“It was absolute mayhem,” said Natasha Enos, who spent a sleepless Saturday night and Sunday morning at Denver International Airport during what was supposed to be a short layover on a cross-country trip from Washington to San Francisco.

Enos, who was flying on Frontier Airlines, didn’t learn that her connecting flight home to California was canceled until she had already landed in Denver. Then it was a rush to find alternative flights and navigate through baggage claims packed with stranded and confused travelers, amid concerns about the highly transmissible omicron variant.

“It was a lot of people in a very small space and not everybody was masking,” said the 28-year-old financial analyst. “There were a lot of exhausted kids and some families were so stressed out.”

While only so much can be done about weather that makes it unsafe to fly, airlines have said they are taking steps to reduce cancellations tied to sick calls. United is offering to pay pilots triple or more of their usual wages for picking up open flights through most of January. Spirit Airlines reached a deal with the Association of Flight Attendants for double pay for cabin crews through Tuesday, a union spokesperson said.

►JetBlue 'proactively' cancels nearly 1,300 flights:Cancellations extend into mid-January as sick calls surge from omicron

Flight canceled? What next

More than ever, travelers need to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

Airlines generally rebook travelers on the next available flight but on some airlines, including discounter Allegiant, that's not always the next day. The Las Vegas-based airline doesn't operate its routes every day. 

Travelers who don't like their rebooking option should reach out to the airline for other options but be prepared with other flight times and routing. 

Travelers whose flights are canceled by the airline are eligible for a refund, not just a future travel credit, regardless of the type of ticket purchased or the cause of the cancellation, per Department of Transportation rules.

Contributing: Associated Press