US airline JetBlue canceled nearly 1,300 flights over the next fortnight as the rapid spread of the Omicron variant wreaks havoc on airlines.
Airlines grapple with the combination of harsh winter conditions in parts of the northern hemisphere and the spread of Omicron, which has caused an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in countries like the UK , France, Italy and the United States.
U.S. airlines in particular are grappling with the Omicron push, as many of them have schedules close to pre-pandemic levels. United Airlines said on Wednesday 150 flights had been canceled due to Covid-19 personnel issues, and on Thursday it canceled 188 more. Delta Air Lines canceled 87.
JetBlue cancellations will continue until January 13.
“We expect the number of Covid cases in the northeast [US] where most of our crew are based to continue increasing for the next week or two, ”said a spokesperson for JetBlue. “This means there is a high likelihood of further cancellations until the number of cases starts to decline.”
A United spokesperson said: “The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people leading our operation.”
British airlines, on the other hand, announced reduced schedules weeks ago due to weak demand. British Airways has not been forced to cancel any flights at the last minute due to the spread of the variant, even though some workers are on sick leave. EasyJet also said it had not suffered from any personnel issues.
More than 4,700 flights around the world that were originally scheduled for Thursday have been canceled, according to FlightAware, a data company. More than half of these cancellations were not confirmed until the same day. That added to nearly 2,900 cancellations on Wednesday, the data showed.
There were 152,000 flights on December 29, about 16,000 fewer than in 2019 before the pandemic but better than the same day in 2020, before vaccines became widespread in wealthy countries, according to FlightRadar24, another company. of data.
Nick Cunningham, Aviation Analyst at Agency Partners, said: “We suspect this will turn out to be a short-lived disruption, as the exponential of cases is so steep, suggesting a rapid spike – but it also implies that while this is going on it could be very confusing.
“Unlike previous waves, the impact could be more on the supply side (in the sense that airlines struggle to tap capacity) than weak demand or government restrictions.”