Airline cancellations are already piling up in the US, with more than 1,000 flights scrubbed the day before New Year’s Eve as coronavirus cases climbed and heavy snow brewed in the West.
JetBlue Airways Corp. scratched 175 flights, accounting for 17 per cent of its schedule by 9.39am on Thursday in New York, according to FlightAware.com. Allegiant cancelled 89 flights, or 18 per cent of its service. United Airlines Holdings Inc. scrubbed 190 flights, representing 8 per cent of its schedule.
The disruptions come after thousands of flights were canceled over the Christmas holiday weekend and into early this week as winter storms combined with staffing shortages caused by the spread of coronavirus cases from the omicron variant.
“Like many businesses and organisations, we have seen a surge in the number of sick calls from omicron,” JetBlue said by email on Thursday. To give customers time to make other plans, the New York-based carrier pared its schedule through January 13.
While health officials’ guidance reducing the isolation period for many people testing positive to five days from 10 is expected to help staffing, “we expect the number of Covid cases in the Northeast - where most of our crew members are based - to continue to surge for the next week or two”, JetBlue said.
Allegiant Travel Co. cited severe weather and staff impacts from Covid-19, as well as security and air traffic control issues, for its delays and cancellations. United didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 2.02 million people around the US on Wednesday.
In addition to the New York City area, where JetBlue is based, Atlanta was among the hardest hit for cancellations and delays Thursday morning, according to FlightAware. Heavy rains were expected for the Southeast and a flash flood warning was issued for the Atlanta area.
Moderate to heavy snow is expected in much of the West on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
And no relief is expected for the New Year’s holiday, with more than 500 flights already canceled for Friday and 78 for Saturday. Snow and an icy mix are “expected to paint a swath of hazardous travel conditions New Year’s Day from the front range of the Rockies to the Midwest and Great Lakes,” according to the weather service.