MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Airlines continue major flight cancellations as record COVID cases cause widespread staffing shortages.

Tracking service FlightAware reports 4,500 delays and more than a thousand cancellations Thursday alone. This, as the TSA says air travel volume has just about returned to pre-pandemic levels.

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WCCO found out what you should know before you book a flight for 2022.

Amidst the December chill, there is a thrill – at least when you’re from a tropical climate.

Jason Tedjasukmanaand his wife are visiting from Indonesia – to see their son Ryan, who lives in St. Paul. Ryan described the weather by saying, “It’s not as bad as yesterday, my only concern is driving, slippery conditions.”

He’s also a bit uneasy about upcoming travel. “There is a little concern about flights getting canceled,” he said.

Kyle Potter, a travel journalist with the Minnesota-based company Thrifty Traveler, says air travel purchases are tricky, because “in the US, when you buy a plane ticket, you have shockingly few rights.”

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The only two legal rights you do have if airline cancels or delays your flight, is that the airline is responsible to get you where you need to go, as soon as possible. That could be hours later, or days later.

Or they have to reimburse you, but it may not be enough to cover an impromptu flight home.

So flexibility is key, and Potter encourages people to make sure that they are booking a flight that allows them to change or cancel for a voucher for free.

“Rental cars, hotels, excursions, activities, all of these things, just make sure you are booking things that are 100% refundable or darn near close to it,” he said.

Thrifty Traveler released an editorial on Thursday calling on U.S. lawmakers to hold airlines accountable for giving passengers more support.

The travel analysts say in other countries, flyers have more rights.

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Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield