Mass Christmas flight cancellations stretched into a third day on December 26 as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant forced huge numbers of staff into isolation over the Holiday period. By 3 am EST on Sunday, Delta Air had already been forced to proactively cancel 124 flights, while United Airlines had preemptively axed 90 flights.
Outside of China, Delta and United are the two worst-affected airlines globally. On Christmas Day itself, Delta cancelled 368 mainline flights after “exhausting all options and resources to prevent those cancellations”.
Delta had pinned some of the blame on bad weather but admitted that staff shortages arising from Omicron-related sickness was behind its Christmas meltdown. A spokesperson said it expected to cancel 300 flights by the end of Sunday.
“Delta people are working together around the clock to reroute and substitute aircraft and crews to get customers where they need to be as quickly and safely as possible,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “When that’s not possible, Delta Reservations specialists coordinated with our Operations and Customer Care Center to get those impacted on the next available flight.”
United Airlines had implored customers to trust the carrier with their Holiday travel but its often cited vaccine mandate wasn’t able to stop Omicron from wreaking havoc on the airline’s schedules.
New York City-based jetBlue has also found itself struggling with staff shortages and has already axed 82 flights on Sunday. The airline implored the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the recommended isolation period for breakthrough COVID-19 cases to head off a staffing crunch.
The CDC has reduced the isolation period for healthcare workers but declined to extend that provision to other workers. New York state, however, has overruled the CDC and cut the isolation period to just five days for airline workers and other essential workers so long as any fever has cleared up and symptoms are improving.
Workers do not have to test out of isolation but must wear an enhanced face mask on their return to work.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.