Omicron causes Christmas weekend flight cancellations

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is contributing to cancellations of hundreds of flights scheduled for Christmas weekend.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines canceled more than 200 flights scheduled for Friday due to a combination of issues, including the impact of the omicron variant and bad weather.

Delta also canceled 375 flights Christmas Day and another 374 Sunday, and expected to cancel more than 200 flights Monday.

The airline said it had “exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crew to cover scheduled flying” before it started canceling flights last week from its schedule of thousands of flights a day. “We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans,” Delta said in a statement.

It advised customers to check Delta’s website or app for flight updates.

United Airlines has also been canceling some of its flights. “The nationwide spike in omicron cases 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,” Chicago-based United said in a statement, adding that it is working to rebook as many people as possible “and get them on their way for the holidays.”

In addition to the impact of COVID-19 on flight crews, Delta also had storms through its hubs in Seattle and Salt Lake City, and issued waivers allowing flight changes without additional costs for flights to, from or through those cities.

The flight cancellations come after Delta CEO Ed Bastian earlier this week raised concerns about the impact of the variant on the airline’s workforce and operations, saying the surge “may exacerbate shortages and create significant disruptions.” In a letter to Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bastian asked the CDC to reconsider a guideline for 10 days of isolation for COVID-19 infections in vaccinated people, and proposed a shorter isolation period.

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