Airlines canceled more than 5,600 flights, while thousands more were delayed around the world over the Christmas weekend, when the Omicron variant of Covid-19 halted holiday travel. According to the Flightaware website, nearly 2,500 flights have been canceled as of 1.40 p.m. Saturday, of which just over 850 are connected to the United States, both internationally and domestically.
More than 3,500 flights worldwide have been delayed. As of Friday, about 2,400 cancellations and about 11,000 delays were recorded, according to the same source, which already had nearly 800 cancellations scheduled for Sunday.
Pilots, flight attendants and other personnel have been placed in quarantine after coming into contact with infected people, forcing Lufthansa, Delta and United Airlines to cancel flights. According to Flightaware, United Airlines had to cancel about 439 flights on Friday and Saturday, about 10% of scheduled flights. “The surge in Omicron cases across the country this week has had a direct impact on our crews and the people running our operations,” the US airline said, stressing that it is working to find solutions for travelers. Delta Air Lines also canceled 280 flights on Saturday and 170 on Friday, according to Flightaware, citing both Omicron and occasional bad weather.
The airline said “Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources” before making the cancellations. More than 10 flights were also canceled in Alaska, whose employees reported “possible exposure to the virus” and had to self-quarantine.
China Airlines saw the largest number of cancellations: China Eastern canceled about 540 flights, more than a quarter of its flight schedule, while China Airlines has 264 flights, and also nearly a quarter of its scheduled flights. The cancellations are disrupting the campaign to resume holiday travel this year, after a pandemic-wracked Christmas in 2020.
According to estimates by the American Automobile Association, more than 109 million Americans were expected to leave their area by plane, train or car between December 23 and January 2, a 34% increase from last year. Fortunately, the outages had no effect on Santa’s tour, which the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) had controlled for 63 years. “Things are going so well so far, Santa has distributed 2 billion gifts and he is now replacing Pakistan,” General Eric Kenny told AFP.
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