Flight Cancellations Start to Slow as Airlines Reset

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Carriers are scaling back schedules to cope with weather disturbances and staffing shortages related to Omicron

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Shortly before Christmas, air travel has been plagued by persistent troubles, resulting in weeks of hardship for passengers. Airlines burned through reserve staff as the fast-spreading Omicron version fueled the outbreak, and a series of winter storms that threw snow on Seattle, Washington, D.C. and the Northeast exacerbated the tremors.

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Southwest Airlines Co.

According to FlightAware, it largely avoided cancellations over Christmas, but has struggled since the beginning of the year, canceling 14% of its flights from January 1 to January 9. The airline on Monday scrubbed more than 200 flights, which is about 6% of its schedule.

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An airline spokesperson said, “Southwest Airlines made flight adjustments across the network for Monday as the airline recovers from staffing challenges and severe winter weather, which affected many of our largest operations over the past week and this weekend.” has done.”

The Omicron version is the latest twist in a pandemic that has bolstered airlines’ ability to set plans more than a few months – or sometimes even weeks – in advance.

David Seymour, Chief Operating Officer of American Airlines Group Inc.,

said in an interview last week that it was too early to say how long the version could remain a disruptive force. “I don’t know how it will play out. There’s a lot of uncertainty, a certainty of Covid and the pandemic,” he said. “We’re not seeing massive changes right now – it could be premature.”

Carriers are already thinning their schedules for the rest of the month and in February and March to deal with operational problems stemming from a mix of reduced staffing due to Covid-19 sick calls and disruptive weather.

United Airlines Holdings Inc.,

Which canceled nearly 100 mainline flights on Monday, said it expects a surge in Omicron’s cases to continue to affect its operations. A spokesperson said the airline is adjusting its schedule to better match capacity with its staffing levels. The airline reduced January flight plans by about 2.7% over the weekend, according to schedule data from aviation data provider, Cirium.

Alaska Airlines said last week that it would cut daily flights by 10% through the end of the month, and JetBlue Airways Corporation

has said it will cancel about 1,300 flights by mid-January.

Analysts said a seasonal slowdown in air travel after the Christmas and New Year holidays, as well as some reduction in bookings due to concerns about the Omicron version, should provide some respite to airlines.

“Last week we saw capacity reductions for the month of January from at least seven airlines as the industry did everything possible to cope with inclement weather and staff shortages,” Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Linnenberg wrote in a client. Note on Sunday.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, about 1.7 million people passed through US airports on Sunday, up from two million a week earlier.

Write Alison Cider at [email protected]

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