Major airlines have announced they are grounding hundreds of flights as COVID-19 infections impact staffing numbers across the country. According to aviation tracker FlightAware, there will be at least 550 cancelled flights “within, into, or out of” the United States over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Statements from both United Airlines and Delta say that a spike in Omicron cases is the root cause of the issue.
Delta Air Lines – headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia – said:
“Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources—including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying—before cancelling 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.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by United Airlines spokesman Joshua Freed, who told The New York Times that cancellations were likely to carry on through Christmas Day. He said, “We are really managing this day by day. There may be some more flight cancellations for Saturday. It’s possible.” Freed continued: “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.”
An Avoidable Situation?
The probability of disruption over the holiday season was anticipated by some in the industry, who sent a December 21 letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. The missive highlighted that the Omicron variant – and in particular, the ten-day recommended isolation period for those who test positive for COVID – could make a difficult situation worse.
Written by Delta CEO Ed Bastian and others, the letter reportedly urged the CDC to shorten the isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals to just five days upon the onset of Omicron symptoms. The letter read:
“With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the 10-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operations. Similar to healthcare, police, fire, and public transportation workforces, the Omicron surge may exacerbate shortages and create significant disruptions. Further, all airline personnel are required to mask at airports and on airplanes.”
Liberty Nation will keep you updated as this story develops.
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