Travelers push their luggage past baggage claim in the United Airlines terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) during the holiday season as the Omicron variant of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threatens to hit the case numbers in Los Angeles, California, USA , 22nd 2021.
Bing Guan | Reuters
Airlines canceled more than 2,400 U.S. flights on New Year’s Day as they faced severe weather conditions across the country and a surge in employee Omicron infections, affecting air travel during the year-end vacation.
Airlines have canceled more than 12,000 US flights and delayed thousands more since Christmas Eve, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.
The travel problems occur during the airlines which are among the busiest days since the pandemic began. Last year, the Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 580 million people, up 79% from 2020 but still a decrease of about 30% from pre-pandemic 2019.
Southwest Airlines had largely avoided some of the serious disruptions affecting rivals over the holidays, but scrubbed 472 flights on Saturday, 13% of their schedule, according to FlightAware. Because of a severe winter storm, the airline stopped flight operations at Chicago airports from 1 p.m. local time.
The airline has more than 200 daily departures from Chicago Midway International Airport. An airline spokeswoman said the flights were suspended because planners anticipated “the gusty winds and flurry of snow that show us decades of operations at this airport will slow down the airspace and also de-icing and returning planes in.” will make the air very difficult. “The spokeswoman for Southwest had no staffing problems.
While the weather caused many of the New Year’s Day cancellations, airlines like United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways canceled hundreds of flights over the holidays, citing Omicron infections among the crews for many of the disruptions.
Airlines have increased incentives for pilots and flight attendants to take trips and remove staffing bottlenecks that some executives say could last for several weeks as Covid cases continue to rise.
The Air Line Pilots Association, the United Pilots’ Union, is negotiating triple pay for planes picking up open trips for most of January, CNBC reported on Friday. United flight attendants and both flight attendants and pilots at Spirit and others also receive surcharges during the busy vacation season.
The Federal Aviation Administration also said earlier this week that the disruption was likely to continue.
“Weather and heavy seasonal traffic will likely lead to some travel delays in the coming days,” the agency said on Friday. “Like the rest of the US population, an increased number of FAA employees have tested positive for COVID-19. To ensure safety, the volume of traffic in some facilities could be reduced, which can lead to delays in peak times. “
Airlines have tried to cancel flights early so customers don’t get stuck at the airport, overwhelm ticket counters and have to change their plans. JetBlue Airways announced this week that it will be cutting 1,280 flights from its schedule by mid-January to avoid short-term cancellations as crews with Omicron Covid infections stand by.
American Airlines, which operates a major hub from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, canceled 205 flights, or 7% of its operations, on Saturday, FlightAware data showed. Chicago-based United has canceled 153.7% of its main scheduled flights.