JetBlue Airways announced Wednesday (December 29) that it has preemptively canceled more than 1,200 flights scheduled during the next two weeks due to a lack of employees capable of meeting the high demands of travel, specifically during the recent holiday period.
“While the new CDC guidelines should help get crewmembers back to work sooner, and our schedule reduction and other efforts will further ease day-of cancellations, we expect the number of COVID cases in the northeast — where most of our crewmembers are based — to continue to surge for the next week or two,” the airline said in a statement. “This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down,” JetBlue said in a statement obtained by ABC News.
On Thursday (December 30), more than 1,100 flights were canceled nationwide as of 2:30 p.m., amid yet another crucial day of holiday travel combined with a lack of staffers.
Seattle Tacoma International Airport, which is among the U.S. airports with the most cancellations during the holiday season, confirmed it had nearly a third of its scheduled flights grounded and said “staffing issues may bring further delays in operations,” ABC News reports.
Last week, CNN reported nearly 700 flights were canceled and an additional 1,300 experienced delays in the U.S. on Sunday (December 26), the day after Christmas, while a total of 2,000 were canceled globally, according to FlightAware.
In total, 6,000 flights worldwide were canceled between December 24 and December 26, which included 1,700 U.S. flights in and out of the country.
The cancelations and delays came as staff and crew members called out sick amid a recent spike in COVID-19 cases during the surge of the recently discovered Omicron variant, while millions of people are still traveling for the holidays.
The TSA said it screened 2.19 million passengers nationwide on Thursday (December 23), which was the highest number of the holiday season.
On December 23,, United Airlines said it had to “cancel some flights” amid the Omicron variant spike and its “direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” according to a memo obtained by CNN.
United canceled 201 flights on December 24, which equaled 10% of its total schedule, as well as an additional 238 flights (12%) on December 25, according to FlightAware via CNN.
Delta Air Lines also canceled 173 Christmas Eve flights, also due to issues stemming from the spread of the Omicron variant.
“We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans,” Delta said in a statement obtained by CNN. “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.”
JetBlue canceled 80 flights, accounting for about 7% of its flight schedule, on Christmas Eve, while Alaska Airlines confirmed it canceled 17 flights on December 23 in a statement shared prior to canceling an additional 11 on December 24.