United and Delta cancel dozens of flights on Christmas Eve as Covid hits crews

A masked traveler waits to board a United Airlines flight at San Francisco International Airport on October 15, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines canceled dozens of flights on Christmas Eve as Covid hit crews.

“The nationwide surge in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operations,” United said in a statement Thursday. “As a result, we unfortunately had to cancel some flights, and we notify affected customers in advance that they will be arriving at the airport.”

United said it is trying to rebook travelers whenever possible.

This week, US airline executives asked Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials to relax quarantine rules for fully vaccinated individuals who test positive for Covid to five days from the current 10, citing potential staff shortages and flight disruptions. The CDC loosened its rules for healthcare professionals on Thursday.

United has canceled more than 131 major flights scheduled for Friday, about 7% of its schedule, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.

Delta canceled more than 90 flights, or 4% of Friday’s schedule, citing poor weather in Salt Lake City and the Seattle area, two of its hubs, and the impact of a rapidly spreading omicron variant. More than 80 Delta Saturday flights have been canceled.

“Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources, including re-routing and replacing aircraft and crews for scheduled flights, before canceling about 90 flights as of Friday,” the airline said in a statement. “We apologize to our clients for the delay in their vacation travel plans. Delta employees are working hard to get them where they need to, as quickly and safely as possible, on the closest available flight. ”

More than 90% of Delta employees and more than 96% of United employees in the United States have been vaccinated, the airlines said.

Delta and United’s flight disruptions, however, are less than the massive flight cancellations experienced by some airline customers this summer and fall, when carriers including US and Southwest faced staff shortages. Both of these airlines offered compensation to staff for travel during peak vacations and for meeting scheduled attendance.

Airline executives in recent weeks have said they expect some of the busiest days since the pandemic began at the end of the year, despite rising Covid cases across the country.

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