Thu. Jan 27th, 2022

Thousands of flights were canceled this week due to winter storms and COVID-19-related staff shortages.

By Bloomberg

Airline cancellations are already piling up in the US, with 1,086 flights being scrapped as increasing coronavirus cases hit staff members. Winter storms meanwhile threatened to further disrupt travel over New Year’s weekend.

JetBlue Airways Corp. scratched 175 flights, making up 17% of its schedule, by 11:37 a.m. Thursday in New York, according to FlightAware.com. Allegiant canceled 89 flights, or 18% of its service. United Airlines Holdings Inc. scrubbed 192 flights, representing 8% of its schedule. By late morning, the total cancellations were already above the 1,084 reported for the entire Wednesday.

The disruption comes after thousands of flights were canceled over the Christmas holiday weekend and early this week as winter storms combined with staff shortages caused by the spread of coronavirus cases of the omicron variant.

“Like many businesses and organizations, we have seen an increase in the number of sick calls from omicron,” JetBlue said in an email. To give customers time to make other plans, the New York-based service provider has scaled down its schedule to Jan. 13.

While federal guidance that reduces the isolation period for many people who test positive to five days from 10 is expected to help staff, “we expect the number of Covid cases in the Northeast – where most of our crew members are based – to continue. to rise for the next week or two, ”JetBlue said.

United also cited omicron-related staff shortages, as well as Allegiant Travel Co., which also referred to safety and air traffic control issues.

The Transportation Security Administration said it selected 2.02 million people in the U.S. on Wednesday.

Atlanta was hit hardest by cancellations and delays Thursday morning, according to FlightAware. Heavy rains have developed in the southeast and a flash flood warning has been issued for the Atlanta area.

No relief is expected in the near term.

Heavy snow is expected in large parts of the West on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, while snow and an icy mix “are expected to paint a piece of dangerous travel conditions on New Year’s Day from in front of the Rockies to the Midwest and Great Lakes. . ” More than 500 flights have already been canceled for Friday and more than 100 for Saturday.

Airlines are unlikely to see much impact on earnings, says Helane Becker, an analyst at Cowen Inc. Most canceled flights will be rebooked and carriers could use larger aircraft to consolidate service, she said.

“The airlines are doing their best to accommodate passengers,” Becker said in an email. “But as it affects earnings, we do not think it will be significant for the fourth quarter results.”

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