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A JetBlue Airways plane at Cancun International Airport in Mexico on Dec. 8. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

JetBlue Airways is canceling over 1,280 flights beginning Thursday through mid-January in an attempt to get ahead of a surge in cases among pilots and flight attendants.

Why it matters: The move follows days of disrupted travel over the last week, when airlines, including JetBlue, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, cut more than 4,000 flights largely due to staffing challenges.

Driving the news: JetBlue canceled 173 flights, or 17% of its scheduled flights, on Thursday, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.

  • United Airlines canceled 188 flights, or 8% of its mainline schedule. Alaska Airlines canceled 95 flights, 14% of what it was scheduled to fly.
  • The flight reductions are scheduled to go through Jan. 13, according to JetBlue.

The big picture: Major airlines and their lobby urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to cut the quarantine period for fully vaccinated people to five days from symptom onset due to the threat of Omicron on staffing.

  • JetBlue amended its leave policies following the CDC's announcement this week, shortening its recommended isolation time.

What they're saying: "While the new CDC guidelines should help get crewmembers back to work sooner, and our schedule reduction and other efforts will further ease day-of cancellations, we expect the number of COVID cases in the northeast ... to continue to surge for the next week or two," JetBlue spokesperson Derek Dombrowski wrote in a statement.

  • "This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down."
  • The flight cancellations are part of an effort "to get even further ahead of the expected increase in Omicron cases," three JetBlue department leaders wrote Tuesday in a note to staff, according to CNBC.

Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, said: "Staffing remains tight as workers are hesitant to pick up voluntary overtime due to disruptive passengers, COVID concerns and COVID test positives during the busiest travel period of the year."

  • "We have negotiated holiday incentives to help with operational challenges but there’s only so far you can stretch people."
  • "It’s also important to recognize that some of the cancellations and delays are weather related," Nelson said.

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

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from JetBlue and Sara Nelson.

Go deeper

COVID is disrupting some North Texas school schedules

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Several North Texas school districts have canceled classes for the rest of the week, while others are now requiring students and staff to wear masks in response to a surge of new coronavirus cases.

Why it matters: Pediatric hospitals have reported an increase in positive COVID test results in the month since the first omicron case was reported in North Texas.

Exclusive: Topography charts new trial path

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Topography Health landed $21.5 million in Series A funding from Bain Capital Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, Axios has learned exclusively.

  • The New York and Los Angeles-based startup aims to carve a niche in the clinical trials landscape by engaging community physicians with a plug-and-play trials platform.

Why it matters: The clinical trials landscape is dominated by a few expensive and slow-moving studies run largely by elite, hard-to-access academic medical centers.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.