Airlines companies continued to cancel hundreds of flights on Saturday as staff issues related to COVID-19[female[feminine disrupted holiday celebrations during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
FlightAware, a flight tracking website, noted that 888 flights entering, departing or within the United States were canceled on Saturday, up from 690. Friday. About 200 more flights have already been canceled for Sunday. FlightAware does not say why the flights are canceled.
Delta, United and JetBlue all said the omicron variant was causing staffing issues leading to flight cancellations on Friday. United spokeswoman Maddie King said staff shortages always caused cancellations and it was not clear when normal operations would resume. “It was unexpected,” she said of omicron’s impact on staffing. Delta and JetBlue did not immediately respond to questions on Saturday.
According to FlightAware, all three airlines have canceled more than 10% of their Saturday scheduled flights. American Airlines also canceled 90 flights on Saturday, or about 3% of its schedule, according to FlightAware. US spokesman Derek Walls said the cancellations were the result of “COVID-related illness calls” and the airline contacted customers on Friday. European and Australian airlines have also canceled flights during the holiday season due to staff issues related to COVID.
Flight delays and cancellations linked to staff shortages have been a regular problem for the U.S. airline industry this year. Airlines have encouraged workers to quit in 2020, when air travel collapsed, and have been short-staffed this year as travel recovers.
To alleviate staff shortages, countries like Spain and the UK have reduced the length of COVID-19 quarantines by allowing people to return to work sooner after testing positive or exposed to the virus.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian was among those who called on the Biden administration to take similar action or risk further disruption to air travel. Thursday, the United States COVID-19 isolation rules shortened for healthcare workers only.
Tali Arbel, The Associated Press