FlightAware, a flight-tracking firm, identified 2,175 cancelled flights worldwide on Christmas Eve, usually one of the busiest days of the year. Around 1,779 flights were also cancelled on Christmas Day, with 402 more cancellations announced for Boxing Day.
Five different airlines are concerned, including China Eastern (474 cancellations), Air China (188), United (177), Air India (160) and Delta (150).
The companies have explained a staff shortage will impact more flights shortly as more employees have been catching Covid because of the new heavily mutated variant Omicron.
The Omicron variant is causing Covid cases to surge across the States. The new, more transmissible strain now accounts for more than 75 percent of cases nationwide.
United Airlines said rising numbers of Omicron cases “had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation”.
Delta has explained that, under American restrictions, any cabin crew member who tests positive for Covid, whether or not they are vaccinated, have to isolate for ten days and are therefore unable to work.
The company said in a statement it had “exhausted all options and resources – including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying – before cancelling around 90 flights for Friday”.
Ed Bastian, Delta’s chief executive, has pleaded to reduce the self-isolation period from ten to five days.
Airlines for America and JetBlue agreed with the request.
“The fastest way to do this is for all of us, leaders and individuals, to make the difficult decisions that must be made to protect ourselves and others.
“In some cases, that will mean cancelling or delaying events, just as we have had to cancel the reception we planned to have with you [journalists] today.
“But an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled. It’s better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.”