Omicron variant causes Christmas flight cancellations and holiday travel headaches

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United Airlines has been forced to cancel 121 flights on Christmas Eve, in part, due to the coronavirus omicron variant.

According to Flight Aware, United Airlines has canceled 121 flights on Friday, which is equivalent to 6% of their overall flight schedule. FOX Business has identified 21 instances where United Airlines cancellations on Christmas Eve are directly attributed to the coronavirus, stating that staffing issues have caused the cancellation.

For a flight from Denver to Newark scheduled for Friday, for example, the following message is shown on the United Airlines website: "Your flight is canceled due to an increase in Covid cases limiting crew availability. We're sorry for disrupting your holiday plans and for the inconvenience."

A United Airlines spokesperson confirmed to FOX Business that the nationwide spike in coronavirus omicron variant cases has disrupted some of their flights.


A United Airlines 737 Max 9 takes off. (United Airlines) (United Airlines)

"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. 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," the spokesperson said.

United Airlines isn't the only airline feeling the impact of the omicron variant, as Delta Air Lines is also blaming the omicron variant for some flight cancellations.

According to a Delta Air Lines spokesperson, around 90 flights are being canceled on Friday.

"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. We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans. Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight," the spokesperson said. "Flight cancellations are due to a combination of issues, including but not limited to, potential inclement weather in some areas and the impact of the Omicron variant."

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 16: An employees at the Delta Air Lines helps a customer at a nearly deserted Los Angeles International Airport on April 16, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Passenger air travel has plummeted more than 90 percent at LAX as ai ((Photo by David McNew/Getty Images))


Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian and other medical officers said in a Dec. 21 letter to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that the isolation guidelines for vaccinated individuals should be revisited.

Instead, Bastian and Delta's medical officers proposed a 5-day isolation period from the time that symptoms begin, stating that the omicron ovarian may "exacerbate shortages and create significant disruptions."


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – MARCH 09: United Airlines ramp services worker Cynthia Lara fills out paperwork before receiving her COVID-19 vaccine at United’s onsite clinic at O’Hare International Airport on March 09, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. United has bee ((Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) / Getty Images)

"With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the 10-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operations. Similar to healthcare, police, fire, and public transportation workforces, the Omicron surge may exacerbate shortages and create significant disruptions. Further, all airline personnel are required to mask at airports and on airplanes," the letter states.

Airlines for America, a trade organization representing multiple U.S. airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, also wrote a letter to Dr. Walensky in support of the 5-day isolation recommendation.

On Dec. 23. the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA wrote a separate letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stating that they support the current 10-day isolation recommendation. 

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