Major airlines in the U.S. have canceled hundreds of Christmas Eve flights as the surge in the Omicron variant of COVID impacts flight crews and other airport employees.
The move has left hundreds of travelers stranded at airports nationwide, something United and Delta are working to resolve.
“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,” United said in a statement on Thursday by spokesperson Josh Freed.
When a traveler accesses their itinerary that has been affected, the United Airlines online portal says: “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.”
Delta said it had exhausted all options and resources before canceling around 90 flights for Friday. Impacted customers reportedly received emails that offered rerouting and rebooking options to ensure customers could reach their destinations.
Delta’s online portal cited potential inclement weather and the impact of the Omicron variant for the cancellations that impacted its customers.
Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, vowed to fight the constraints of the vaccine mandate.
On Tuesday, Bastian asked the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals who contract a breakthrough case of COVID. He cited a direct impact on the airline’s workforce. He requested that the isolation period be reduced to five days from the current 10.
Other airlines, such as JetBlue, also supported Bastian’s request, urging the CDC to reconsider its current guidelines.
On Thursday, the CDC released updated quarantine guidelines for healthcare workers. The new guidelines cut the isolation time to seven days for workers who test positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic. However, no direct response has been given regarding the guidelines that impact other industries such as the airlines.
The 2021 holiday season has been expected to be a significant rebound from the 2020 season. Analysts expect a growth of more than 34% during the nearly two-week period.
Travelers were told they should prepare for long lines at airports and congested traffic on roadways. An estimated 109 million people are set to travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2.