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Airlines Cancel More Than 6,000 Holiday Flights Due to Omicron Surge

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” a United spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Airlines cancel more than 6,000 holiday flights due to Omicron surge
Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Axios

More than 6,000 flights worldwide have been cancelled over the three-day Christmas weekend as airlines continue to contend with surging cases of the Omicron variant and staff shortages, CNN reported.

Why it matters: Thousands of customers are believed to be affected by the latest pandemic-driven travel disruptions.

  • According to flight tracker FlightAware, more than 1,000 flights entering, leaving, or within the U.S. have been cancelled as of Sunday afternoon, with more than another 4,000 delayed.
  • More than 2,300 Christmas Eve flights were canceled worldwide and 690 in the U.S. on Friday. The cancellations represent between 5% and 10% of each U.S. airline’s flights, according to FlightAware.

What’s happening: “The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” a United spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

  • “As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport,” the spokesperson said, noting that airline staff were working to rebook as many people as possible.
  • Delta said in a statement to Nexstar, “Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying — before canceling around 90 flights for Friday.” The airline was also working on rebooking flights.
  • Two other major U.S. airlines — American and Southwest — aren’t reporting problems with flight cancellations so far, per AP.

The big picture: Airlines for America (A4A), which lobbies on behalf of all major U.S. airlines, is urging the CDC to cut the quarantine period for fully vaccinated people to five days from symptom onset due to the threat of Omicron.

  • “The Omicron surge may exacerbate personnel shortages and create significant disruptions to our workforce and operations,” A4A CEO Nick Calio said in a letter Thursday to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, per ABC News.
  •  The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA wrote to the CDC on Thursday to advocate for the 10-day isolation period to remain.
  • “Flight Attendants should not be expected to return to work until they test negative and do not exhibit symptoms,” wrote flight attendants union president Sara Nelson.
  • Axios has contacted all affected airlines for comment.

Go deeper: Travel whiplash: Omicron upends holiday plans

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