Severe weather, omicron infections drive thousands more U.S. flight cancellations

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  • Airlines have canceled more than 12,000 US flights since Christmas Eve.
  • Bad weather disrupted flights on the first day of the year.
  • Omicron infections among crew have reduced the workforce at some carriers.

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Airlines canceled more than 2,400 US flights on New Year’s Day as they faced severe weather nationwide and a surge in Omicron infections among employees, disrupting air travel over the year-end holidays.

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Since Christmas Eve, airlines have canceled more than 12,000 US flights and forced to delay thousands more, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.

Travel woes come on airlines’ busiest days since the pandemic began. Last year, the Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 580 million people, up 79% from 2020 but about 30% less than in 2019 before the pandemic.

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According to FlightAware, Southwest Airlines had largely avoided some serious disruptions affecting rivals over the holidays, but on Saturday scrubbed 472 flights, 13% of its schedule. The airline stopped operations at Chicago airports until 1 p.m. local time before freezing cold.

The airline has over 200 daily departures from Chicago Midway International Airport. An airline spokesman said flights were cut because planners were “anticipating strong winds and blowing snow that our decades-long history of working at this airport suggests that we would slow down the airspace and allow aircraft to fly.” very challenging.” A Southwest spokeswoman didn’t have staffing issues.

While the weather led to many cancellations on New Year’s Day, carriers including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways canceled hundreds of flights during the holidays, citing Omicron transitions among crews for many of the disruptions.

Airlines have offered incentives for pilots and flight attendants to take trips and ease staff shortages, which some officials say could go on for several more weeks as Covid cases continue to rise.

CNBC reported Friday that United Pilots’ Union, the airline pilots association, has negotiated triple pay for aviators who take open trips through most of January. Flight attendants and both cabin crew and Spirit and other pilots at United are also receiving extra pay during the busy holiday period.

The Federal Aviation Administration also said earlier this week that the disruption would continue.

“Due to weather and heavy seasonal traffic, there is likely to be some delay in travel in the coming days,” the agency said in a statement on Friday. “Like the rest of the US population, an increased number of FAA employees have tested positive for COVID-19. To maintain safety, traffic volumes at some facilities may be reduced, resulting in busy There may be a delay during the period.”

Airlines have tried to cancel flights ahead of time so that customers don’t get stuck at airports, putting heavy pressure on ticket counters and scrambling to change their plans. JetBlue Airways this week said it will cut 1,280 flights from its schedule by mid-January to avoid last-minute cancellations as an Omicron Covid transition sideline crew.

American Airlines, which operates a large hub outside Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, canceled 205 flights on Saturday, or 7% of its operations, FlightAware data showed. Chicago-based United canceled 153, 7% of its mainline flights.

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