Christmas Flight Cancellations Are Piling Up, As Delta, United and Lufthansa Respond to COVID-19’s Impact on Crews

Three major airlines claimed they had cancelled dozens of flights due to illness largely linked to COVID-19. This was during the holiday season, which saw a lot of flight crews.

Germany-based Lufthansa said Friday that it was canceling a dozen long-haul transatlantic flights over the Christmas holiday period because of a “massive rise” in sick leave among pilots. The cancellations on flights to Houston, Boston and Washington come despite a “large buffer” of additional staff for the period.

The airline says it couldn’t speculate on whether COVID-19 infections or quarantines were responsible because it was not informed about the sort of illness. Other flights were available for passengers.
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Lufthansa said in a statement that “we planned a very large buffer for the vacation period. But this was not sufficient due to the high rate of people calling in sick.”

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, both based in the U.S., said that they were forced to cancel many Christmas Eve flights due to staff shortages related to omicron. FlightAware reports that 170 United flights were cancelled and 133 Delta flight cancellations occurred.

“The nationwide spike in omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” United said in a statement. “As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport.”

The airline stated that it is working to rebook as many customers as possible.

Delta said it canceled flights Friday because of the impact of omicron and possibility of bad weather after it had “exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying.”

In a statement, it stated that its goal was to quickly get passengers to their destination.

These cancellations are due to coronavirus-related infections that have been fueled by this new variant further reduce staffing in hospitals, police stations, and other crucial operations that struggle to keep a full complement of workers.

Spain and the U.K. reduced COVID-19 quarantines to ease staff shortages. They allowed people to return to work earlier after being tested positive for the virus or having been exposed.

Ed Bastian, Delta CEO was one of those calling on the Biden administration for similar actions or further disruptions to air travel. The U.S. reduced COVID-19 isolation rules only for healthcare workers on Thursday.


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