Airlines canceled another 1,400 flights as omicron and severe weather continue to disrupt travel

Passengers wait in line to check-in for flights at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in Newark, New Jersey, United States, on Monday, January 3, 2022.

Christopher Akikkon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Airlines canceled hundreds of additional US flights Tuesday in the wake of winter storms and as Covid omicron changing hamstring crews spread rapidly.

As of 2 p.m. in New York, more than 1,400 flights have been canceled across the country, according to airline data provider FlightAware. More than 2,300 are delayed. Since Christmas Eve, airlines have canceled more than 20,000 flights, disrupting holiday plans for tens of thousands of customers during what was expected to be the busiest travel day since the pandemic began.

Mondays totaled 3,225 cancellations when a winter storm hit the mid-Atlantic after causing a weekend of turmoil in the Midwest. That was the largest daily total since February 15 last year, when 3,899 flights were canceled, according to FlightAware.

On Tuesday, Southwest Airlines canceled 395 of its more than 3,600 scheduled flights. The Dallas-based airline faced bad weather that forced it to scale back operations at major airports, including Denver, Chicago and Baltimore. A spokeswoman for the airline said that the company is working to return planes and flight crews to their places to resume some of its flights.

More than five departing flights have been grounded at Baltimore/Washington International Airport Thurgood Marshall and at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as of midday. The winter storm also disrupted rail and road travel across the eastern United States, trapping drivers in a traffic jam that lasted for hours after officials closed an icy stretch of I-95 in Virginia.

JetBlue Airways canceled 105 flights, or 10% of its schedule, on Tuesday. A spokesman said the majority of those cancellations were due to schedule cuts it announced last week to help ease staffing restrictions with the Omicron infection sidelining flight crews. The New York-based airline will be reducing nearly 1,300 flights through mid-January.

JetBlue, United, Southwest, and others have offered crews extra stipends to pick up open flights. The United Pilots’ Union and the company agreed to triple compensation for additional flights during most of January.

Regional airline SkyWest was also offering extra pay to pilots who pick up flights during the month to help bolster staff strained by omicron and plans to scale back its schedule in January.

“Due to the ongoing rise in COVID cases and related sick calls, we have worked with each of our major partners to proactively reduce the remainder of January schedules to ensure we are able to provide sufficient staff on our remaining flights while we work on recovery in weeks,” the company said in a statement. coming.”

SkyWest, which flies smaller planes to Delta, United, Alaska and America, canceled 94 flights, or 9% of its schedule, on Tuesday.

However, airline investors shrugged off the turmoil. Analysts expected a further rebound in travel demand this year, particularly on transatlantic flights that many customers have missed during the pandemic due to a raft of travel restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

Carriers have struggled to ramp up their networks to match travel demand, facing labor shortages and rising costs.

“We believe 2022 will be another year of aggregate results as airlines continue to struggle to add capacity to their networks where demand is likely to remain strong,” Cowen analyst Helen Baker wrote in a note on Tuesday. “We expect inflationary pressures in fuel and labor costs, as well as higher interest costs, to drive ticket prices higher.”

Shares of major US airlines rose on Tuesday for the second day in a row. The Southwest, the US and the US all rose more than 1%, while the S&P 500 fell less than 0.1%.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo