Number of flights delayed soars, canceled as airlines struggle with Omicron

Harry Wilmerding, DCNF

Airlines canceled nearly 1,500 U.S. flights Wednesday, marking the 11th consecutive day of more than 1,000 cancellations, the most in a row since the beginning of the pandemic, multiple sources reported.

Delayed flights exceeded 1,700 by just midday Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported. Airlines have reportedly now canceled over 21,000 flights since Christmas.

The recent surge in cancellations results in part from massive winter storms coupled with staffing shortages as Omicron coronavirus variant cases soar, the WSJ reported.

Commuter airline SkyWest Inc., which partners with four major airlines, canceled and delayed over 280 flights Wednesday, or 16% of its daily schedule, according to Flight Aware.

Alaska Air Group Inc. canceled 113 flights Wednesday, 16% of its schedule, and it delayed another 49, Flight Aware said.

“Like many other airlines, this latest surge of Covid is driving higher-than-usual absences among all our workgroups, consistent with nationwide Covid trends,” an Alaska Air Group spokesperson said in the statement. “This is compounded by the residual impacts of winter weather in several of our key hubs.”

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 500 flights on Wednesday, roughly 16% of its schedule, while it delayed more than 480, according to FlightAware. The airline did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment but told the WSJ bad weather at its Baltimore, Denver and Chicago hubs triggered the cancellations.

Meanwhile, two airlines have seemingly begun to smooth out their schedules. American Airlines canceled only 17 flights Wednesday in addition to delaying 261, around 9% of its schedule, according to Flight Aware. And JetBlue cut just two flights by midday Wednesday after canceling over 100 during the last seven days, according to the WSJ.

American Airlines and JetBlue did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment, but JetBlue previously told the WSJ that it would reduce its schedule through January as employees continued to contract COVID-19.

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