Hundreds of canceled flights cause Christmas chaos for travelers
Tens of millions of people traveling to be with friends and family this holiday weekend hit an unexpected roadblock, as the omicron variant caused several major airlines to cancel hundreds of flights nationwide.
NEW YORK – A lot of people are going to have problems getting home for the holidays as airlines cancel many flights due to not having enough crew who can work amid a COVID surge.
Hundreds of flights across the country were being canceled due to issues with the coronavirus omicron variant.
More than 35 flights were already canceled on Friday at JFK Airport in New York City by 8 a.m. Many of them were Delta flights with the airline saying it simply does not have enough staff that can work because of sick calls.
According to Flight Aware, United Airlines has canceled at least 150 flights, which is more than 6% of their overall flight schedule.
For a flight from Denver to Newark scheduled for Friday, the following message is shown on the United Airlines website: “Your flight is canceled due to an increase in Covid cases limiting crew availability. We’re sorry for disrupting your holiday plans and for the inconvenience.”
A United Airlines spokesperson confirmed to FOX 5 News that the nationwide spike in coronavirus omicron variant cases has disrupted some of their flights.
“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” the spokesperson said.
United Airlines isn’t the only airline feeling the impact of the omicron variant, as Delta Air Lines is also blaming the omicron variant for some flight cancellations.
According to a Delta Air Lines spokesperson, around 90 flights are being canceled on Friday.
“Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying — before canceling around 90 flights for Friday. We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans. Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight,” the spokesperson said. “Flight cancellations are due to a combination of issues, including but not limited to, potential inclement weather in some areas and the impact of the Omicron variant.”
Jet Blue was also dealing with canceled flights.
Germany-based Lufthansa said Friday that it was canceling a dozen long-haul transatlantic flights over the Christmas holiday period because of a “massive rise” in sick leave among pilots. The cancellations on flights to Houston, Boston and Washington come despite a “large buffer” of additional staff for the period.
The airline says it couldn’t speculate on whether COVID-19 infections or quarantines were responsible because it was not informed about the sort of illness. Passengers were booked on other flights.
Lufthansa said in a statement that “we planned a very large buffer for the vacation period. But this was not sufficient due to the high rate of people calling in sick.”
Airlines say they are working to reschedule thousands of stranded passengers but warned that more canceled flights were expected on Christmas day.
The news comes amid a covid surge across the country. In New York alone, 38,835 new positive cases were reported on Thursday. New Jersey also had a record-high number of new cases with 15,482. The positivity rate in New Jersey is just below 20%, meaning one in five coronavirus tests is coming back positive.
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Coronavirus flight cancelations
Flights across the country were being canceled on Christmas eve because of staffing issues due to COVID-19.
FOX Business and the Associated Press contributed to this report.