Over 7,000 flights have been canceled worldwide since Friday, over the Christmas weekend, due to a lack of staff due to the increase in infections from Covid-19. This is what appears from the FlightAware tracking site. Tens of thousands of passengers left on the ground. The BBC reports that the most affected appear to be airlines from China and the US, with further delays and cancellations announced for Monday.
Airlines report cancellations are due to crew members testing positive for Covid-19; furthermore, staff who have not tested positive but have had contact with infected people are required to remain in self-isolation. The figure is set to grow.
The conditions of pilots, flight attendants and other airline employees, absent at the last minute due to illness or quarantine after exposure to Covid, also weighed on take-offs and landings, which forced Lufthansa, Delta, United Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and many other carriers understaffed to cancel flights during one of the peak times of the year. More than 2,800 flights worldwide were canceled on Christmas Day, including over 990 to or from US airports, with over 8,500 delays. And on the eve there were around 2,400 cancellations and 11,000 delays. Flightaware data showed, for example, that United canceled around 200 flights on Friday and nearly 250 on Saturday, 10% of those scheduled. “Omicron’s national spike in cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people running our operations,” United said in a statement Friday. Delta canceled 310 flights on Saturday and over 100 others on Sunday, claiming it had “exhausted all options and resources.” “We apologize to our customers for the delay in their vacation travel plans,” the company said in a statement.
The cancellations added to the frustration of not being able to reunite with loved ones over the holidays after last year’s Christmas was already severely tested by the first wave of Covid. Chinese airlines recorded the highest number of cancellations, with China Eastern eliminating more than 1,000 flights, over 20% of its flight schedule, between Friday and Saturday, and Air China blocking around 20% of departures. scheduled in the period. The American Automobile Association has estimated that more than 109 million Americans will travel by plane, train, or car between December 23 and January 2, a 34% increase from last year. But most of these plans were made before the takeover of Omicron, which became the dominant strain in the US by overwhelming hospitals and healthcare workers. New York State reported a record 44,431 infections on Friday, with new cases increasing every day even nationwide. Then there is also the bad weather factor. “Abnormal cold conditions and a flurry of Pacific moisture result in prolonged periods of snow in the mountains and coastal and downstream rains, some of which can become storms and water bombs,” the NWS said. It is expected that two to four feet (61 to 122 centimeters) of snow will fall in the Sierra Mountains and the State of Oregon this weekend.