According to new reports, flights continue to be canceled around the United States as airlines struggle to deal with a shorter staff because of Omicron variant outbreaks. Previously, on Christmas Eve, hundreds to thousands of flights were canceled because the Omicron variant had left many airlines with a small staff, making it impossible for many flights to continue. On Monday, after the big holiday weekend (though still during this peak holiday travel time period), more than 2,500 flights were canceled. Of these 2,500 flights, about 1,000 were within, leaving from, or going to the United States. This has left about 11,000 flights delayed, as a result.
An overwhelming majority of these flight cancellations are the result of the Omicron variant, as crew and airline staff are calling in as they become infected with the high contagious coronavirus variant. While many of the big airlines in the United States previously touted that they had enough workers to work during this peak holiday season — after having to lay off many of their workers in 2020 when the pandemic first began, then struggling with a labor shortage in 2021 once operations picked back up again. Because of the highly contagious Omicron variant, even a large, rotating staff has left many airlines struggling as many workers become infected.
However, not every flight cancellation is the result of the Omicron variant. For example, Alaska Airlines canceled about 19% of their flights and stated that the reason was because of bad weather. The winter weather in the Pacific Northwest has also led to many flights being canceled because of bad weather conditions, rather than because of staff shortages.
Of the many airlines experiencing these cancellations and delays, United Airlines and Delta are two of the most prominent airline companies. Both signaled that they are experiencing these flight cancellations because of staff shortages, and both also expressed their desire to help stranded travelers finally return home safely.
This recent news comes after many airline CEOs expressed their worry over the Omicron variant, suggesting that this highly contagious variant could harm the airline industry’s road to recovery. More so than many other industries, the airline industry suffered greatly during 2020 when the pandemic first began as many counties, states, and countries began to limit travel to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
In 2021, as more Americans and people around the world began to become fully vaccinated, people were able to travel again. While the Delta variant put a bit of a strain on the travel industry, as cases started to dwindle, people felt safe traveling again. At first, when the news of the Omicron variant broke, airlines were against borders closing and restrictions on flights going to or from other countries that had an increase in cases.
However, even with these worries, travel in the United States didn’t slow down. Many people decided to fly and travel over the holiday season. The problem came, however, in the form of the Omicron variant, as its caused infections to surge within flight crews. Now, these airline struggles could still hinder their quest for recovery.