Travel sector ‘on the brink of falling of a cliff’ says expert
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Figures from FlightAware showed 2,175 flights had been cancelled on Christmas Eve alone. A quarter of these cancellations were in the USA while 1,259 Christmas Day flights have also been called off amid a surge of Covid infections caused by the Omicron variant.
Airlines have been increasingly unable to staff flights amid the surge in infections.
Five airlines have been responsible for the majority of cancellations with China Eastern cancelling 474 journeys, while Air China called off 188.
United Airlines cancelled 177 flights, Air India 160 and Delta called off 150.
Delta blamed the Omicron variant along with weather conditions, pointing out they had considered other options before cancelling the flights.
They said the airline had “exhausted all options and resources – including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying – before cancelling around 90 flights for Friday”.
United said the heavily mutated Omicron variant has directly impacted their levels of staffing on their aircraft.
They revealed: “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.”
Responding to the chaos airlines have called for the relaxation of quarantine rules for vaccinated staff.
Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian has asked the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the self-isolation period for vaccinated people.
Bastian has requested it is reduced from ten to five for vaccinated people experiencing breakthrough infections.
It is hoped this would allow vaccinated staff experiencing mild infections to return to work more quickly therefore avoiding cancellations.
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Airline’s social media feeds have been full of frustrated passengers asking for help or complaining about the cancellations.
“@Delta really?! You cancel my Christmas Eve flight at 12:30am?? I got up at 2am to get to the airport with my baby and husband and don’t see the cancellation till I’m at the airport to get my bags checked,” one passenger tweeted at the airline on Friday.
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