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Hundreds of flights canceled across US as airline staff battle with omicron

Delta Airlines Boeing 777 (Lasse Fuss/WikiCommons)

Hundreds of flights that were set for Christmas Eve and Day were canceled across the United States as airlines blame the fast spread of the omicron COVID-19 variant for preventing flight crews from working.

United has so far canceled 170 flights for Friday, representing about 9% of its overall schedule for Christmas Eve, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. Another 59 flights have already been called off for Saturday.

“The nationwide spike in omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” the airline said in a memo obtained by CNN. “We’re sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays.”

Delta said Thursday night that its flight crews and teams took every step possible — “including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover schedules flying” — before it canceled scores of flights amid the busiest travel time of the year. The airline canceled 141 flights that were departing Friday and another 98 on Christmas Day, according to FlightAware.

Delta noted it still had nearly 3,100 flights scheduled for Christmas Eve.

While 2021 initially appeared to be the year Christmas and holiday celebrations would safely return to normal thanks to vaccines, the sudden and steady rise in infections linked to omicron — first detected by scientists in South Africa — has renewed worry about family gatherings and travel. Many Americans have sought out COVID-19 tests, which are now in dwindling in supply in certain regions, while others have changed their plans altogether.

Globally, more than 3,000 flights have been canceled for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, according to FlightAware. That figure includes 37 flights set to touch down at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday.


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