Thousands of pilots, flight attendants and other staff have been forced into quarantine after being exposed to Covid, forcing Lufthansa, Delta and United Airlines among others to cancel many flights. Secondly Flywire, United Airlines had to cancel nearly 439 flights on Friday and Saturday, 10% of those scheduled. “The surge in Omicron cases across the country this week has had a direct impact on our crews and the people running operations,” the US company said, adding that it was working to find solutions for affected travelers.
The situation in China Delta Air Lines also canceled more than 300 flights on Saturday and 170 the day before, according to Flightaware, citing both Omicron and poor weather conditions. More than a dozen Alaska Airlines flights have also been canceled, with its employees saying they have been “exposed to the virus” and need to self-isolate. However, Chinese airlines are responsible for the largest number of cancellations: China Eastern cut about 540 flights, more than a quarter of scheduled flights, while Air China canceled 267 flights, almost a quarter of the total.
The cancellations and delays deal a severe blow to the desire to return to travel this year for the holidays, after Christmas 2020, which was hit hard by the pandemic. According to estimates by the American Automobile Association, more than 109 million Americans were expected to travel by plane, train or car between December 23 and January 2, a 34% increase from last year.
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