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U.S. airlines scrap nearly 1,000 Christmas Day flights due to Omicron

Stock MarketsDec 25, 2021 08:00PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Travelers form lines during the holiday season as the coronavirus Omicron variant threatens to increase case numbers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage 2/2

By Humeyra Pamuk and Joel Schectman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. airlines scrapped nearly 1,000 flights on Saturday, the second straight day of massive cancellations as surging COVID-19 infections have sidelined some pilots and other crew members, upending plans for tens of thousands of holiday travelers over the Christmas weekend.

A total of 957 Christmas Day flights, including domestic flights and those into or out of the country, were canceled, up from 690 on Christmas Eve, according to a running tally on flight-tracking website FlightAware.com. Nearly 2,000 flights were delayed.

At least one airline said that it expects hundreds more cancellations on Sunday.

The Christmas holidays are typically a peak time for air travel, but the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant has led to a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections, forcing airlines to cancel flights as pilots and crew need to be quarantined.

United Airlines canceled 230 flights while American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) called off 90 flights, representatives for the companies said in separate statements.

"The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation," United spokesperson Maddie King said. She said the cancellations made up a small portion of United's 4,000 average daily flights during the holiday season.

"We are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays," she said.

Winter weather and Omicron forced Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) to scrub 344 flights on Saturday, of approximately 3,000 scheduled flights, "after exhausting all options and resources to prevent those cancellations," a spokesperson for the company said, adding that the impact was likely to persist on Sunday.

"Delta expects more than 300 of its flights will be canceled on Sunday, Dec. 26," the spokesperson said. "Delta people are working together around the clock to reroute and substitute aircraft and crews to get customers where they need to be as quickly and safely as possible."

Globally, FlightAware data showed that just over 2,700 flights were called off on Saturday and another 7,049 were delayed, as of 5.30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT).

Among the most impacted U.S. airports were Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International, New Jersey's Newark Liberty International, Los Angeles International and New York's JFK International. Six out of the 10 global airports most hit by the cancellations were Chinese.

Not all airlines were affected equally. A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) said there were no issues to report with the carrier's flights on Saturday.

The Omicron variant was first detected in November and now accounts for nearly three-quarters of U.S. cases and as many as 90% in some areas, such as the Eastern Seaboard.

The average number of new U.S. coronavirus cases has risen 45% to 179,000 per day over the past week, according to a Reuters tally.

While recent research suggests Omicron produces milder illness and a lower rate of hospitalizations than previous variants of COVID-19, health officials have maintained a cautious note about the outlook.

Ahead of the Christmas holiday, Americans scrambled for COVID-19 tests and many went ahead with their travel plans.

U.S. officials have said that people who are fully vaccinated should feel comfortable proceeding with holiday travel.

U.S. airlines scrap nearly 1,000 Christmas Day flights due to Omicron
 

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Comments (13)
Aaron Pierett
Aaron Pierett Dec 26, 2021 12:16AM ET
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so I should be led to believe this isn't due to employees walking out again?
Al Ose
Al Ose Dec 26, 2021 12:12AM ET
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Be over as fast as started
Andrew Ulferts
Andrew Ulferts Dec 25, 2021 9:19PM ET
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It is interesting that this report admits not all airlines were affected equally, and Southwest had no issues to report. Huh.
John El
John El Dec 25, 2021 9:19PM ET
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why is that interesting in the least bit? sounds like statistical variance
pcg upstate
pcg upstate Dec 25, 2021 7:04PM ET
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most commenting need to educate themselves on how a virus operates, that goes for the socialists and conservatives
Andrew Ulferts
Andrew Ulferts Dec 25, 2021 7:04PM ET
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I think the global governments need to educate themselves on how a respiratory virus operates. That’s all some of us have been doing for the last two years. They should probably consult we the people next time when an expert is needed.
Miriam Morkhul
Miriam Morkhul Dec 25, 2021 7:04PM ET
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Since when does Airlines not have reserve pilots for flu season?
Andrew Ulferts
Andrew Ulferts Dec 25, 2021 6:51PM ET
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I guess the oil draw this coming week won’t be the *******out we were expecting with the record travel that was forecasted. Was that the intention? Funneling all of the investable capital into green energy? Is this all orchestrated?
Andrew Ulferts
Andrew Ulferts Dec 25, 2021 6:51PM ET
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The redacted part says *****out
Andrew Ulferts
Andrew Ulferts Dec 25, 2021 6:51PM ET
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Bl@w out
Shawn Mcghee
Shawn Mcghee Dec 25, 2021 4:44PM ET
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So short the airlines monday? Lol
Adi Avivi
Adi Avivi Dec 25, 2021 4:40PM ET
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Delyaing 230 flights out of 4k dailies. 5 percents which will be delivered later. A storm in a cup of tea... I kepp holding my airliners shares.
Jose Cabreja
Jose Cabreja Dec 25, 2021 2:50PM ET
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More like Govt told Airlines to cause chaos during Christ mas to make more OmicronPrime Fud since govt bailed da Airlines. few more Jabs n 2 more Weeks n it'll go away🤣🤣🤣 🤡🤡🤡
Me comment
Me comment Dec 25, 2021 2:47PM ET
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Stephen, no, no they didn't. Although they could have said because of the unvaccinated that make up 89% of the total cases.
Stephen Towne
Stephen Towne Dec 25, 2021 2:47PM ET
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Insccurate data you’ve got there bud
Dave Jones
Dave Jones Dec 25, 2021 2:43PM ET
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I thought the vaccines were meant to stop this? Or maybe we need another 50 booster shots?
Glenn Ebersole
Glenn Ebersole Dec 25, 2021 2:43PM ET
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Read more write less?
Jody Darden
Jody Darden Dec 25, 2021 2:43PM ET
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“If you get vaccinated you will not get sick” “I’ll destroy Covid and cure cancer” NIGHTMARE NIGHTMARE NIGHTMARE People are so doomed
Dave Jones
Dave Jones Dec 25, 2021 2:43PM ET
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Hurry up and get your booster! Then your next one and your next one and your next one. Seriously how many jabs will it take to make you feel safe as you run towards the cliff edge willingly?
 
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