After canceling thousands of flights on Christmas Eve and at the beginning of this week, airlines have been forced to again cancel flights as they struggle to continue operations with a small flight crew. On Wednesday, at least 850 new flights were canceled, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. On both Monday and Tuesday earlier this week, more than one thousand flights were canceled each day. These flights were in the United States, or leaving or entering the U.S.
Of the American airlines struggling with staff shortages, Delta, United, and JetBlue had the most flights canceled in the past few days. SkyWest has also been experiencing mass cancellations, though many of their cancellations also have to do with bad winter weather that planes are unable to fly in. However, SkyWest is also having staffing issues in relation to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
These latest cancellations come right before New Year’s Eve and Day, possibly the biggest travel period in the entire year. According to the Transportation Security Administration, they expect the Monday after New Years Day to be one of the busiest times during this holiday peak season.
If these cancellations continue for the week and into the new year, if flight crews continue to struggle with the spread of the Omicron variant, then even more cancellations could leave travelers stranded during one of the busiest — if not the busiest — times of the year.
Currently, more people are traveling than they did last year, in 2020, before vaccinations were available to the masses. In 2021, once more Americans became fully vaccinated, the number of people wanting to travel skyrocketed. While December has seen a surge in travelers at airports, these numbers still haven’t reached what was normal in 2019, before the pandemic began.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hindered how the airline industry (and the travel industry as a whole) has been able to do business. When the pandemic first started in 2020, airlines were forced to furlough or lay off much of their staff, as restrictions and regulations in the country and around the world hampered flight travel. However, when more Americans became fully vaccinated in 2021, many airline companies struggled to meet the surge in travel demand.
Then the Delta variant arrived and caused some issues for airlines, such as the slowing of booking. However, many airline industries successfully continued to do business, and the desire to travel didn’t completely subside for many during this time. The Omicron variant, rather than keeping people from wanting to travel, presents a more complex issue for these airline companies.
When the Omicron variant was first announced publicly to the world, the airline industry worried that regulations would negatively impact their road to recovery. Now, it appears that the spread of the virus within their flight crew and workers could possibly influence their recovery.
The airline industry as a whole is a major business that employs many people around the country, and around the world. As these companies struggle to combat the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, analysts are watching to see just how this affects stranded travelers, as well as the industry and the economy as a whole.