Thousands stuck at airports after US airlines cancel hundreds of flights

Global airlines canceled over 2,000 Christmas Eve flights worldwide, with more than 500 of them being US flights.

US carriers canceled hundreds of flights across the United States on Christmas Eve due to COVID-19 staff shortages, stranding thousands of travelers at the airports nationwide, while forcing others to cancel holiday travel altogether.

The disruptions come after airline executives said they expect some of the busiest days since the coronavirus pandemic began over the Christmas and New Year holidays, despite the surge in COVID-10 infections, driven by the new Omicron strain. 

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” Chicago-based United Airlines said in a statement yesterday.

“As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport,” the carrier added.

United Airlines canceled over 170 domestic flights today, about 9% of its schedule, according to media reports.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines reported that it has canceled 90 domestic flights.

According to Delta, prior to this decision its teams “have exhausted all options and resources – including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying.”

This follows a call to US authorities by Delta CEO Ed Bastian, who asked to cut quarantine for fully vaccinated people to five days from the current 10. As a reason for his request, he cited COVID-related staff shortages.

Earlier, JetBlue addressed the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with similar requests.

According to an American Automobile Association forecast, more than 109 million people – almost 34% more than in 2020 – “will travel 50 miles or more as they hit the road, board airplanes or take other transportation out of town” between December 23 and January 2. Out of these 109 million, 6.4 million are going to travel by air.

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