JetBlue plans to proactively cancel around 90 flights per day for at least the next two weeks as a surge in COVID-19 infections continues to send unprecedented numbers of staff into isolation. The airline expects significant employee absenteeism due to Omicron-induced sickness despite new isolation advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
JetBlue was one of the first businesses to openly plead with the CDC to alter isolation guidance for people infected with COVID-19 in an attempt to head off a staffing crisis.
Despite a shock decision by the CDC to halve the isolation period for anyone infected with COVID-19 to just five days, jetBlue still believes it won’t have enough crew members in the short term to keep its operation running.
“While the new CDC guidelines should help get crewmembers back to work sooner, and our schedule reduction and other efforts will further ease day-of cancellations, we expect the number of COVID cases in the northeast – where most of our crewmembers are based – to continue to surge for the next week or two.”
“This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down,” a statement from the airline explained on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, flight tracking website Flight Aware recorded 101 flight cancellations at the New York-based airline. The carrier had scrubbed around 9% of its planned schedule.
JetBlue chief executive Robin Hayes urged the CDC in a letter last week to cut the isolation period to “safely mitigate disruption to our essential services and further economic harm during this Omicron wave”.
The CDC now recommends that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 can exit isolation after just five days as long as they are either asymptomatic or their symptoms are improving and no fever is present. Early exit from isolation should be accompanied by stringent mask wearing for the following five days.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) has called out the new guidelines claiming that “pandemic fatigue” was leading to decisions that would extend the duration of the pandemic.
“Already the lack of paid sick leave creates pressure on workers to come to work sick. Corporations that fail to recognize this with paid sick leave, or pressure workers to come to work sick or face discipline, are failing their workers and their customers,” commented Sara Nelson, president of AFA.
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.