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Thousands More Flights Being Cancelled, Airlines Claim "Due To Omicron"

Despite the CDC's new return-to-work guidance, flight crews are still calling in "sick."

Earlier this week, the CDC updated its guidelines on returning to work after a positive Covid test based on a study that could have been titled, “Delta Airlines said please and c’mon, just look at that face, how do you say no to that.” While airlines breathed a sigh of relief, broader response was less positive. Now, it seems it all may have been for naught: Despite the rush to get crews back on planes, thousands of flights are still being cancelled due to positive Covid cases.

Yesterday, flight tracking service FlightAware noted 2,874 cancelled flights globally. Of those, 1,084 were within, into, or out of the United States. Today, those numbers have improved a bit on the global side (only 2,626 cancellations so far) but have gotten even worse domestically: 1,093 flights have been cancelled that involve the U.S., with another 2,370 delayed.

While winter weather has certainly played a role in the travel breakdown, many airlines are directly attributing issues to the Omicron variant. CBS spoke with representatives for Delta and United, and Reuters spoke with JetBlue about the cancellations. From CBS:

JetBlue will be reducing its schedule through January 13 by about 1,280 flights due to crew members out sick, a spokesperson for the airline told Reuters.
Earlier Wednesday, a spokesperson for Delta said winter weather and the Omicron variant continued to “hamper operations.”
A spokesperson from United Airlines told CBS News that 150 of Wednesday’s cancellations were due to COVID-19 staffing issues, and that they are working to rebook as many customers as possible.
“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” a United Airlines spokesperson said. “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 TSA expects air travel during the holiday season to reach almost pre-pandemic volume, but that may be hampered by the sheer number of cancelled and delayed flights. If you’re planning on flying in the near future, keep an eye on your flight tracker — you may not be going anywhere any time soon.


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