World Airways has canceled flights affecting thousands of passengers booked on its low-fare service to Honolulu and London over the Christmas holidays, apparently without notifying many of those whose flights have been canceled.

Effective last Friday, World canceled all its flights to London and on Nov. 3 suspended all its direct one-stop service from the Washington area to Honolulu except on Saturdays. The remaining Honolulu-bound flights require an overnight stay in Los Angeles.

World Vice President Christopher Burfield said the airline has done more than what is legally required.He contended the airline has notified ticket-holders of the cancellations and has offered to schedule them on other flights, offered paid hotel accommodations to Hawaii-bound travelers who have to stay overnight in Los Angeles, arranged for World's London tickets to be used on other airlines, or has given refunds. But many travelers have complained that they have found out about the canceled flights by accident and have not been treated in a satisfactory manner.

"They have not called me; they have not accommodated me; they have not made me an offer; they have not been helpful; they have not been apologetic," said Alice Rigdon, an employe of the U.S. Customs Service who planned to spend the holidays in Hawaii. She said she found out about her flight's cancellation when she called to ask when she had to pick up her ticket and the reservations clerk kept saying, "Uh oh,uh oh."

Complaints to the Civil Aeronautics Board indicate that some would-be travelers to London have learned only a day ahead or the same day that their flights had been suspended.

World's action has left many passengers who held confirmed World reservations scrambling for alternate transportation at the one time of year when flights are most heavily booked, even sold out, especially to Hawaii. Few, if any, will be able to book new reservations at discount fares at this late date. Many would-be holiday travelers bought tickets from World as far back as last summer to ensure their bookings at World's lower-than-normal fares.

"I think it's deplorable -- many people have holiday plans and they're [World Airways] taking a laid-back attitude," said Charles Hendricks, one area resident with World bookings. "They are not notifying people, and when you ask about it, they say I have to make up the difference in cost."

Hendricks and his wife bought round-trip tickets to Honolulu on July 25 at $498 each. Because other arrangements will cost them another $1,000, they may cancel their trip.

Burfield, World's vice president of scheduled service, said yesterday the cancellations were necessary. "We did not have a load factor at the time we canceled that could economically justify operating the planes during the holiday period," he said.

However, he insisted that everyone had been accommodated. Because World flights from the Washington area get to California too late to take the remaining World flights to Honolulu, Burfield said World reservations agents were instructed to tell passengers that World would pay for their stay in a Los Angeles hotel overnight so that they could continue on the next day's World flight to Honolulu.

As to the London flights, he said, "We have pretty well taken care of everything." Burfield said Pan American World Airways and Trans World Airlines had agreed to accept World tickets from London to the United States at no additional cost to the passengers, and that Pan Am had agreed to accept tickets from the United States to London.