JetBlue latest US airline to slash flights due to Omicron, staff shortages

Officials with JetBlue Airways announced late Wednesday that the carrier is canceling flights at least into the middle of next month due to crew shortages attributed to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The airline, which is based in New York, has cut around 1,280 flights that were scheduled through Jan. 13, the New York Post reported, or roughly 10 percent of its overall capacity.

That said, officials with the air carrier said that an increase in Omicron cases in the Northeast means that flight cancelations could increase in the coming days if more flight crews are impacted.

“We expect the number of COVID cases in the northeast – where most of our crewmembers are based – to continue to surge for the next week or two,” said a JetBlue spokesperson in a statement published by Reuters. “This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down.”

Prior to JetBlue’s announcement, other U.S. airlines have also been forced to cancel flights, many unexpectedly, due to the spread of the variant.

On Christmas Eve, Delta and United airlines both canceled flights, stranding thousands of Americans trying to get to destinations in time for the holidays.

Fox Business identified “21 instances where United Airlines cancellations on Christmas Eve are directly attributed to the coronavirus, stating that staffing issues have caused the cancellation.”

“For a flight from Denver to Newark scheduled for Friday, for example, the following message is shown on the United Airlines website: ‘Your flight is canceled due to an increase in Covid cases limiting crew availability. We’re sorry for disrupting your holiday plans and for the inconvenience,'” the network added.

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport. 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,” a United Airlines spokesperson told Fox Business last week.

Delta has canceled at least 90 Christmas Day flights with United following suit, canceling around 54 flights.

“Top US airlines, including JetBlue, American and Delta, canceled thousands of flights over the past week because of staffing shortages and seasonal weather-related challenges,” The Post added.

The Post also that JetBlue’s cancellations into the new year are likely a sign of things to come as Omicron continues to spread, though other airlines, as of this writing, had yet to make any in January.

On Thursday, the New York-based carrier canceled an additional 173 flights, or some 17 percent of its planned schedule, while 50 flights were delayed. According to FlightAware data, in excess of 1,000 flights into, out of, or within the U.S. had also been sidelined.

Jon Dougherty


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