Thousands More Flight Delays, Cancellations Kick Off the 2022 New Year

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More than 3,800 worldwide flights have been canceled today, over 2,200 of them that were scheduled to fly within, out of or into the United States, Reuters reported. On top of which, over 8,800 flights around the globe were delayed by early evening, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), according to commercial aviation tracking website FlightAware.

This continues the air travel nightmare that’s plagued the 2021-22 holiday travel period thus far, with thousands upon thousands of flight disruptions attributed to a combination of inclement weather and staffing shortages, which are being exacerbated by the Omicron variant’s swift spread. Saturday, New Year’s Day, had seen an even higher number of cancellations—over 2,700 flights in the U.S.

Regional carrier SkyWest Airlines, which operates short-haul flights as Delta Connection, United Express and American Eagle, saw the highest number of combined cancellations on Sunday at 477 (20 percent of its planned total flights).

Southwest Airlines was also heavily impacted, grounding 411 flights, or 11 percent of its total. The carrier crosses heavily through Chicago, where a rare snowfall of about three inches that fell on New Year’s Day made conditions hazardous.

The Washington Post reported that the Windy City has only recorded more than an inch of snow on the first of January a dozen times since 1872. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was forced to cut a total of 517 inbound and outbound flights, while Chicago Midway lost 63.

JetBlue canceled 16 percent of its overall schedule for Sunday, 169 flights. Delta scrapped 162 flights, American Airlines 144 and United 101, which constituted roughly five percent of their overall planned flights for Sunday.

The Omicron variant has added to U.S. airlines’ existing struggles to ramp up staffing in terms of pilots, cabin crew, gate agents, etc. after laying off, furloughing and retiring thousands of employees in the wake of the pandemic.

Despite financial incentives offered by air carriers in efforts to convince employees to work overtime during the holidays, many staff members couldn’t be coaxed into working extra hours in packed airplanes, and potentially having to handle unruly passengers or contract COVID-19 themselves.

Last week, transportation agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also announced that staffing shortages caused by a spike in Omicron infections were affecting operations, with such employees as air traffic controllers calling out sick and going into quarantine.

Source: TravelPulse


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