Dec 31, 2021 - Health

New Year's flight cancelations pile up as Omicron spreads

Photo of United Airlines planes parked at an airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Dec. 27. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The omicron variant and winter storms are prompting fresh waves of U.S. flight cancelations heading into the New Year's holiday weekend.

Driving the news: More than 1,300 domestic flights scheduled for Friday have been cancelled as of 11:30 a.m. on Friday, per FlightAware's latest tally of flights into the U.S., departing or within the country.

  • The tracking site reports nearly 2,660 cancelations globally for the same period. Major carriers including United, JetBlue and Delta have called off planned flights.

Why it matters: The pandemic-related disruptions have scuttled thousands of flights in recent days as COVID cases mount, leaving airlines short staffed.

  • "They just can’t keep up with the amount of folks that are testing positive," Angelo Cucuzza, director of organizing at the Transport Workers Union, tells the New York Times.
  • JetBlue tells Bloomberg: "Like many businesses and organizations, we have seen a surge in the number of sick calls from Omicron."

By the numbers: Delta said Thursday it expects 200-300 canceled per day over the weekend.

  • Per FlightAware, Friday's cancelations include 11% of United's flights and 14% of JetBlue's flights.
  • The U.S. has seen an 84% rise in COVID cases over the past week, according to the Washington Post's data tracking.
  • Axios’ requests for comment to United, Delta and JetBlue were not returned by publication time.

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

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