Updated Dec 27, 2021 - Economy

Omicron surge and storms disrupt air travel for 4th straight day

 A United Airlines airplane at Newark Liberty International Airport as the sun rises behind the skyline of lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York City on December 13, 2021

Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Another 1,000 flights were canceled in the U.S. on Monday due to COVID-19 outbreaks among crews for a fourth straight day, with storms in the Pacific Northwest adding to the chaos, AP reports.

Why it matters: Thousands of customers have been affected by the latest pandemic-driven travel disruptions since Christmas Eve, with airlines including United blaming a "nationwide spike in Omicron cases" in recent days.

By the numbers: 1,278 flights were canceled entering, leaving, or within the U.S. on Monday evening, according to flight tracker FlightAware.

  • Thousands more have been canceled over the past few days — including more than 2,300 flights worldwide and another 690 in the U.S. on Christmas Eve.
  • The cancellations represent between 5% and 10% of each U.S. airline's flights, according to FlightAware.

Driving the news: Omicron has "had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation," a United spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Friday, when the cancellations began.

  • "As a result, we've unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport," the spokesperson said, noting that airline staff were working to rebook as many people as possible.
  • Delta said in a statement to Nexstar, "Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying — before canceling around 90 flights for Friday." The airline was also working on rebooking flights.
  • Two other major U.S. airlines — American and Southwest — aren't reporting problems with flight cancellations so far, per AP.

The big picture: Airlines for America (A4A), which lobbies on behalf of all major U.S. airlines, is urging the CDC to cut the quarantine period for fully vaccinated people to five days from symptom onset due to the threat of Omicron.

  • "The Omicron surge may exacerbate personnel shortages and create significant disruptions to our workforce and operations," A4A CEO Nick Calio said in a letter Thursday to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, per ABC News.
  •  The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA wrote to the CDC on Thursday to advocate for the 10-day isolation period to remain.
  • "Flight Attendants should not be expected to return to work until they test negative and do not exhibit symptoms," wrote flight attendants union president Sara Nelson.
  • Axios has contacted all affected airlines for comment.

Go deeper: Travel whiplash: Omicron upends holiday plans

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the latest cancellation statistics.

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