As more and more airline workers test positive with COVID-19 as a result of the omicron variant surge, airlines have had to cancel hundreds of Christmas Eve flights, with more cancellations expected throughout the day. According to the Associated Press, United Airlines cancelled 170 of its Christmas Eve flights, and Delta cancelled 133. According to CNN, this represents about 9% of United's total flights.
Americans by and large appear unfazed by the prospect of travel via airplane during the most recent variant, as 2.19 million people were screened by the TSA through American airports on Thursday. However, a large number of airline employees have called in sick, leading to operational snags.
According to The Hill, the problem is a global one, with a total of over 3,000 flights already cancelled globally, with another 4,604 delayed due to staffing shortages.
In a statement provided by United, the company said, "The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport. We’re sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays."
A statement provided by Delta said that the company has "exhausted all options and resources - including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying - before canceling around 90 flights for Friday."
JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have also announced cancellations for Christmas Eve, although not as many as Delta or United.
Germany's Lufthansa AIrlines also cancelled about a dozen long-haul transatlantic flights into the United States, according to the Associated Press. The company said, "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."