Thousands of would-be travelers received the same disturbing news Thursday: a last-minute cancellation of their Christmas flights on Friday and Saturday due to the recent surge in Omicron cases, including among airline employees.
The number of worldwide cancellations exceeded 3,000 as of Friday morning, the Flight Aware website showed. It was the last blow against them Holiday season, mainly caused by the new and highly communicable Omicron-Variantethat matters now more than 70 percent new coronavirus cases in the US.
Delta Air Lines said it canceled about 135 flights for Friday after “exhausting all options and resources,” including rerouting and replacing planes and crews to cover scheduled flights. It attributed the cancellations to “a combination of issues including, but not limited to, potential bad weather in some areas and the impact of the Omicron variant”.
United Airlines has canceled at least 150 flights that were due to leave dozen of airports on Friday – along with 44 more that were due to take off on Saturday Flight conscious. Other airlines, including JetBlue and Allegiant, did the same, although American Airlines said Friday morning that there are currently no flight cancellations.
In Australia, dozens of flights at airports in the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne were canceled as coronavirus cases in the country rose to their highest level since the pandemic began. And in Europe, a spokeswoman for the Eurostar train service said Friday morning that due to travel restrictions across the continent, a small number of trains had been canceled due to a drop in demand.
United said in a statement that Omicron’s “direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operations” led to the cancellations. Crew members called in sick, according to a spokesman, Joshua Freed, who said United alerted customers as soon as possible. And while Mr Freed said he didn’t expect the airline to cancel any more flights, it remained a possibility.
“We really do it every day,” he said. “There may be further flight cancellations for Saturday. It is possible.”
Customers used social media to voice their complaints about the cancellations.
I want to scream. Daughter in Sydney did everything right. Double vaccine, boosted, PCR test, Qld border pass. Jetstar has just canceled their flight to Bris. No explanation.
— Slurp1953 (@slurp1953) December 23, 2021
In Australia, where more than 500 Omicron cases have been recorded, many airline employees are unable to work after being identified as close liaisons to positive coronavirus cases, airline officials said. According to government regulations, they are required to isolate themselves for seven days.
“A large number of our frontline team members need to test and isolate as close contacts given the increasing number of cases in the general community,” a Jetstar Airways representative said via email on Friday. “So we had to adjust our schedule too late.”
Staff shortages in various sectors have impacted services in many countries as the virus continues to spread.
England said this week that it had reduced the number of days people need to isolate after showing Covid-19 symptoms from 10 days to seven days, a change officials said could help to alleviate the deficiency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a similar move on Thursday, though that change only applies to health workers.