Airlines canceled more than 4,500 flights while thousands of flights were delayed around the world over the Christmas weekend, in the face of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 disrupting holiday travel.
According to the Flightaware website, on Saturday at least 2,000 flights were canceled, of which 700 were connected to the United States, both international and domestic, and more than 1,500 delays.
Friday, about 2,400 cancellations and about 11,000 delays were identified according to the same source who already has more than 600 cancellations scheduled for Sunday.
Pilots, flight attendants and other staff have been forced to quarantine after being exposed to COVID, forcing Lufthansa, Delta and United Airlines to cancel flights.
According to Flightaware, United Airlines had to cancel about 200 flights on Friday and Saturday, or 10% of those that were scheduled.
“The peak of Omicron cases across the country this week has had a direct impact on our crews and the people running our operations,” said the US company, which said it was working to find solutions for affected travelers.
Delta Air Lines also canceled 260 flights on Saturday, and 170 the day before, again according to Flightaware, citing both Omicron and, occasionally, poor weather conditions. “Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources” before these cancellations came, the airline says.
More than a dozen flights in Alaska were also canceled, whose employees said they were “potentially exposed to the virus” and had to self-isolate in quarantine.
Chinese airlines were responsible for most of the cancellations: China Eastern cut about 480 flights, or more than 20% of its flight schedule, while Air China canceled 15% of its scheduled flights.
These cancellations are hampering the desire to resume travel this year for the holidays, after Christmas 2020, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
According to estimates by the American Automobile Association, more than 109 million Americans were due to leave their immediate area by plane, train or car between December 23 and January 2 — a 34% increase from last year’s figure.
Fortunately, these disturbances had no consequences for Santa’s tour, which the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) followed meticulously for 63 years.
“Things are going so well so far, Santa Claus has distributed 2 billion gifts and is now over Pakistan,” Major General Eric Kenny, who leads the NORAD agency, told AFP. Canada District, Friday.
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