The Slatest

Airlines Cancel Thousands of Flights Over Christmas Weekend Amid Omicron Surge

Travelers wait in line at Delta Airlines check-in at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, on December 24, 2021.
Travelers wait in line at Delta Airlines check-in at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, on December 24, 2021. DAVID MCNEW/Getty Images

It’s a rough few days for travelers around the world as airlines have canceled thousands of flights over the Christmas weekend. The wave of cancelations was driven at least in part by personnel shortages amid a surge of COVID-19 infections driven by the omicron variant. Around the world, airlines canceled more than 5,700 flights on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, according to FlightAware.com. And the number is likely to increase.

Airlines canceled at least 2,380 flights globally on Friday, including 690 within, into or out of the United States, according to FlightAware. On Christmas, the number of cancelations totaled 2,557 as of early afternoon, including 899 in the United States. And on Sunday, the number of cancelations reached at least 829, including 204 in the United States, according to the flight-tracking website.

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Within the United States, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines were among the first to report flight cancelations for the holiday weekends that they at least in part blamed on staffing shortages due to the increase in COVID-19 infections. “The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” according to a United memo from Thursday. Delta, meanwhile, said the increase in cases due to the omicron variant was one of multiple issues that led to the cancelations. Lufthansa, which is based in Germany, said it was canceling lots of transatlantic flights due to a “massive” increase in the number of pilots taking sick leave.

Although the number of travelers over the holidays appears to have decreased amid the rise in COVID-19 cases, many are still flying. The Transportation Security Administration said it expects to screen almost 30 million people from Dec- 20 through Jan. 3, lower than the nearly 44 million during the last pre-pandemic holiday season.

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