United, Delta and other U.S. airlines have canceled more than 500 Christmas Eve flights as a surge in COVID-19 cases impacts their staff, the airlines said. The cancellations came as the Transportation Safety Administration said the number of people traveling for the holiday is returning to pre-pandemic levels.
“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” a United Airlines spokesperson told CBS News in a statement. “As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport.” As of midday Friday, more than 525 U.S. flights previously scheduled for December 24 — which includes all flights within, to and from the U.S. — have been canceled, according to FlightAware’s flight-tracking data. United had canceled over 175 flights, Delta called off 150, and JetBlue canceled 72, according to FlightAware.
“Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying,” the airline said in a statement Thursday. Both airlines apologized for the disruptions.
Around the world, a total of 2,200 Christmas Eve flights have been canceled, adding to Thursday’s more than 2,200 global cancellations.The Associated Press reports that Germany-based Lufthansa said Friday it was canceling 12 transatlantic flights over the Christmas holiday period because of a “massive rise” in sickouts by pilots. The flights were to head to Houston, Boston and Washington.
Lufthansa said it had arranged for a “large buffer” of additional staff for the period but still needed to cancel the flights. The airline wouldn’t speculate on whether COVID-19 infections or quarantines were behind the sickouts because it wasn’t told which illnesses were involved. Passengers were booked on other flights.
American and Southwest Airlines told CBS DFW Thursday they have no plans to cancel any flights due to COVID-19 staffing issues.The cancellations come as millions of people are expected to travel for the holidays. The TSA said its agents screened more than 2 million people on Wednesday, exceeding the number of travelers on that day in 2019.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges those planning to travel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. People are also advised to avoid crowded and poorly ventilated spaces and to wear a well-fitting face mask when in public indoor settings.
The CDC has also warned of spiking COVID-19 cases as the fast-spreading Omicron variant infects many throughout the nation. Omicron has become the dominant strain of the virus in the U.S. and health officials are urging people to get fully vaccinated and boosted.