The significant disruption of Unites States air travel continued on Thursday, with more than 2,100 flights canceled.
Airlines cited a combination of bad weather and COVID-19 related staffing shortages.
A major winter storm crossed the Mid-Atlantic this week, leaving up to a foot of snow in parts of Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware. Parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. also reported up to 7 inches of snow. The storm also impacted parts of Pennsylvania and Kentucky. The National Weather Service predicted on Jan.3 that heavy snow accumulation on powerlines could result in power outages across the region.
Widespread staffing shortages due to COVID-19 infections and possible exposures left airlines unable to adapt to schedule changes quickly.
Employees being unable to come into work led to “more than 1,800 U.S. flights getting canceled and more than 4,400 worldwide were grounded on Sunday,” per NBC News.
The strain is so severe that Alaskan Airlines announced it was canceling 10 percent of its January flights due to staffing shortages.
Last week, the airline canceled 170 flights because of the weather and displaced crew. About 17 percent of its scheduled flights — an estimated 120 in total — were canceled on Jan. 6. Alaskan Airlines believes cutting flights would create need flexibility and capacity.
“We deeply apologize for the inconvenience this winter storm has on our guests and employees and are working hard to return to the level of service you know and expect from us, while operating safely,” said Alaska Airlines CEO and executive vice president Constance von Muehlen in a statement.
According to data from FlightAware, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Utah-based carrier SkyWest Airlines have been the most impacted by the cancellations.
Approximately 21 percent of Southwest’s scheduled departures — 646 flights — were canceled on Jan. 6. United reported 11 percent of departures, or 236 flights, were canceled. Sky West reported similar numbers- 11 percent (or 264) of its flights were canceled. These flights were mainly shorter routes.
“The first signs of trouble emerged Dec. 24, when airlines cited rising numbers of coronavirus infections among employees in canceling more than 600 flights,” reports The Washington Post. “Then, unexpectedly heavy snow in Seattle the day after Christmas snarled operations for some carriers, including Alaska Airlines.”
More than 3,000 flights were canceled on Jan. 3, the first Monday of the new year.