Several thousand flights have been canceled around the world — with hundreds canceled in the U.S. — amid holiday-weekend disruption caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware,
Amid staff shortages, about 2,000 flights were canceled globally on Thursday and another 3,000 canceled for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There were 470 cancellations in the U.S. alone for Christmas Eve and another 210 cancellations for Christmas Day.
The cancellations came as travel for the holidays hit levels not seen since the beginning of the pandemic. The Transportation Security Administration said 2,081,297 passengers passed through airport screening on Wednesday, more than on the same day in 2019.
United Airlines said on Thursday that it would cancel 120 flights planned for Friday, citing staffing shortages caused by the spread of the Omicron variant, which is more contagious than previous variants of coronavirus.
“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” the airline said in a statement. “We’re sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays.”
Delta Airlines also said it canceled over 130 flights for Friday, due to “a combination of issues, including but not limited to, potential inclement weather in some areas and the impact of the Omicron variant.”
Delta CEO Ed Bastian sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, asking to cut the recommended quarantine time for breakthrough cases among vaccinated employees from ten to five days.
“With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the 10-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operations,” the letter states.