Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

More than 1,300 flights were canceled in the United States on Friday and 1,001 were scrapped for Saturday.

By Bloomberg

New Year’s Eve air travel began bumpy Friday morning, with more than 1,300 flights canceled in the U.S. and 1,000 scrapped for Saturday.

JetBlue Airways Corp. crashed 145 flights, or 14% of its schedule, in New York at 12:17, according to FlightAware.com, while Allegiant Travel Co. 91 flights, or 19% canceled. United Airlines Holdings Inc. scrubbed the most flights among U.S. airlines, 210, representing 11% of its service.

Total cancellations came in at 1,359 on Friday, and 1,001 were already off the shelves for Saturday. The pace of cancellations slowed significantly after midnight, as did Thursday.

Carriers struggled with staff shortages as the coronavirus omicron variant caused infections to jump. The New York City area, where the variant made its initial invasion of the U.S., has borne the biggest cancellations in the last two days.

“You have a high level of vaccination among airline employees and yet, because of omicron, I think the absenteeism is higher than you would expect,” Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth told Bloomberg Television. Airlines surprised ‘at a time when you’ve also had some winter weather problems across the US’

Air travel in the US is about twice the level of last year, before vaccinations made flying safer. The Transportation Security Administration on Thursday selected 2.05 million passengers.

The National Weather Service has warned that severe conditions will herald the New Year, with moderate to heavy snowfall expected in the Western Mountains. Total can exceed 3 feet in the highest elevations of Utah and Colorado. Dangerous travel conditions are forecast for New Year’s Day from the Central Plains to the Great Lakes.

Not all carriers were hit hard on Friday. Delta Air Lines Inc. reduced 5% of its flights by noon, and American Airlines Group Inc., 1%, according to FlightAware.

Border restrictions coupled with the rise of the case have also dampened the outlook for global travel. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. nearly halved the number of flights to Hong Kong from outside China next month. British Airways plans to cancel flights to the area by March.

It looks like the impact will continue well into the new year. Airlines worldwide have eliminated about 8.4% of the flights they have planned for January over the past four weeks, based on data from BloombergNEF, which monitors demand for jet fuel.

The decline is even more severe in Europe, at 15% of January flights canceled, after some countries imposed new restrictions on cross-border travel in an attempt to stem the spread of omicron.

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