Cancellations Top 2,800 as Covid, Snow Pummel Airlines
(Bloomberg) -- Thousands of U.S. flight cancellations cascaded into the first workday of the new year as ongoing Covid-19 issues among airline workers were compounded by winter storms hitting the northeast.
More than 2,830 flights were canceled as of 2 p.m. New York time on Monday, according to data tracker FlightAware.com, the highest daily total in more than a month. Already, about 8,200 have been grounded since 2022 began. Airports in the northeastern U.S. led cancellations as a winter storm with heavy snow and gusty winds spread from the mid-Atlantic, closing schools and federal offices in Washington and cutting power to more than 1 million people.
The weather-related troubles built on delays that began before the Christmas holiday, with nearly 18,000 flights parked in the U.S. since Christmas Eve, according to FlightAware. More than 67,500 have been delayed during the period, snarling efforts to get home by passengers who visited family or took vacations.
Almost 75% of flights into and out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport were canceled, as were 47% at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and about a quarter at Washington Dulles International, FlightAware data showed. About 21% were grounded at New York’s LaGuardia and 12% at Newark, New Jersey’s Liberty International.
Illness among airline workers linked to the fast-spreading omicron variant has contributed to cancellations. JetBlue Airways Corp. cited a surge in sick calls linked to the virus as a factor in its decision last week to pare its schedule by 1,280 flights between Dec. 30 and Jan. 13. The number of sick calls at American Airlines Group Inc. have remained constant over the past few days, the carrier said in an email.
“We expect the number of Covid cases in the northeast –- where most of our crew members are based –- to continue to surge for the next week or two,” JetBlue said Monday in a statement. “This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down.”
Both Southwest Airlines Co. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. said illnesses among workers continue to affect operations, without providing specifics, and Alaska Air Group Inc. said it’s still seeing higher-than-normal absences due to Covid-19.
Delays persisted even in areas where winter storms have moved on, with Southwest saying extreme cold in Denver requires extra safety protocols for employees working outside, contributing to delays and some cancellations. The Dallas-based airline led canceled flights Monday, dropping 602, or 16% of its total, according to FlightAware data.
JetBlue, which is using managers to fill some jobs, grounded 148 flights Monday, or 14%, while SkyWest Inc. canceled 326, or 14%, and Republic Airways Holdings Inc. 266, or 24%. SkyWest and Republic ferry passengers on smaller aircraft to airport hubs for major airlines.
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