Multiple airlines in the US have canceled more than 400 flights combined on Christmas Eve and delayed at least 1,000 more due to staffing shortages owed to the coronavirus Omicron variant.
Omicron, which is responsible for a surge in breakthrough infections, caused United Airlines to cancel at least 183 of its flights on Friday, according to the Daily Mail. Delta Air Lines has been hit nearly just as hard, canceling 160 of its trips. Meanwhile, JetBlue could not go through with 71 of its flights, and Alaska Airlines canceled 11 of its own.
That means thousands of Americans are being left to spend Christmas apart from their families and loved ones, unless they are able to find alternative flights or means of travel.
Some travelers said their flights were suddenly canceled, while others said they waited for hours on planes or in lines to check in.
United and Delta said they making efforts to contact customers so they do not get stranded at airports. United placed the blame squarely on Omicron, which is highly contagious and has become the dominant variant in the US.
‘The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,’ United Airlines stated.
‘As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport.’
Omicron has not only impacted domestic flights. Worldwide, more than 3,000 flights were canceled for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, according to Flight Aware.
That came after 2,000 flights were nixed on Thursday.
More than 20% of flights that were canceled for Friday had destinations within, into, or outside of the US, according to the flight tracking website.
On Friday, the US reported 261,339 new coronavirus cases, up 10% from the prior day and nearing an all-time record, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.