Omicron Led to Increased Flight Delays and Cancellations

Following a weekend of travel problems, scores of flights were grounded or delayed Monday across the US.

FlightAware recorded 708 cancellations and 453 delays, as of Monday morning. Significant airlines canceled almost 1,000 flights Sunday, citing staffing concerns caused by the omicron strain.

Large Number of Flights

Every major airline suspended or delayed flights on Sunday, including Delta, United, American, JetBlue, and Alaska. According to Flight Aware, JetBlue scrapped 124 flights and postponed 384 on Sunday; Alaska Airlines scrapped 101 flights and postponed 233.

On Christmas Day, 310 Delta and 240 United flights were canceled. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines reduced cancellations on Sunday, but several flights were delayed.

American Airlines scrapped 80 flights and postponed 459 on Sunday, while Southwest Airlines canceled 68 and delayed 912. Some airlines blame the holiday weekend cancellations and delays on winter conditions and the omicron strain.

Delta’s holiday weekend flying schedule was impacted by winter weather and the omicron strain. A Delta representative told Fox Business the airline grounded 161 of the 4,155 planned mainline and connecting flights for Sunday, with roughly 40 additional cancellations expected during the day.

A spokesperson for the airline said about 40 flights might be disrupted on Monday. Southwest Airlines informed Fox Business that despite the weather and air traffic congestion issues, the business had not seen any operational coronavirus-related problems this week.

In addition, United Airlines reported 98 cancellations, due to coronavirus staffing issues on Sunday, out of 4,000 planned flights. The spokeswoman said approximately 50% of tourists who had their plans altered arrived within four hours of their scheduled flight.

Alaska Airlines’ operations were hampered by winter weather in Seattle, however. On Sunday, the Seattle region was expected to get four to six inches of snow.

Omicron’s Influence

A JetBlue spokeswoman told Fox Business the airline is experiencing an increase in omicron illness calls and working to cancel flights when possible.

Notwithstanding their best attempts, they had to postpone several flights; more disruptions and delays are possible as the omicron population expands. The health and safety of their employees and customers remain their top priorities during this epidemic.

The representative told Fox Business they apologize for any difficulties caused by the scheduling modifications.

In a Dec. 21 letter to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian and senior medical officers stated isolation recommendations for vaccinated patients should be reconsidered.

However, Bastian and Delta’s medical officers advocated for a five-day isolation period, citing the omicron variant’s potential to increase shortages and cause significant disruptions.

The fast proliferation of the omicron version may harm their staff and operations. A spike in omicron may worsen shortages and cause significant disruptions in industries like healthcare and public transit.

The letter also requires all airline employees to wear masks in airports and aircraft. The JetBlue spokeswoman supports reducing the isolation period for properly vaccinated people who test positive for the virus.