Thousands of flights canceled due to Omicron

Washington, Dec 25 (EFE).- The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is being blamed for the cancelation of nearly 5,000 commercial flights over the Christmas weekend.

As of 16:00 GMT Saturday, 4,900 flights scheduled for the Dec. 24-26 period had been canceled, according to data from air travel monitoring site FlightAware.

Flights to, from, or inside the United States accounted for more than a quarter of that total.

The US has experienced a 50 percent increase in Covid-19 infections during the last week amid the explosive spread of Omicron.

Two of the country’s four largest airlines as measured by passengers carried, Delta and United, had to cancel 902 flights on Christmas Eve and Christmas because large numbers of staff were out sick with coronavirus.

The Omicron-fueled surge in cases is having a “direct impact” on the availability of flight crews and ground employees, United spokesperson Maddie King told Efe Saturday.

The other “Big Four” US carriers, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, said that they were operating normally.

Staffing shortages are also a legacy of how the major carriers responded to the collapse of air early in the pandemic.

The US government provided the airlines with $54 billion to ensure their survival, but the aid was made conditional on the carriers agreeing to keep current employees on the payroll.

While the airlines did not lay off anyone, some used the subsidies to reduce staffing levels by offering buyouts and early retirement.

When demand began to recover this year, several carriers found themselves without enough people to maintain all of their routes.

Yet even as airlines scramble to keep planes flying, the latest wave of Covid-19 does not seem to be discouraging people from traveling.

Some 2.2 million people passed through screening at US airports on Friday, according to the Transportation Security Administration. three times the figure for Dec. 24, 2020, and comparable to the number in 2019. EFE


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