Monday marked another very rough operational day for many U.S. airlines. Will today be any better?
Winter Storms, Omicron Hit U.S. Airlines Hard
Airlines continue to blame bad weather and the omicron variant for flight delays and cancellations, as winter storms and a highly contagious virus undermine operations.
According to FlightAware, most U.S. airlines experienced a rough day yesterday:
- SkyWest (which operates feeder flights for Delta and United) cancelled 439 flights (17%) and delayed 859 flights (35%).
- Alaska Airlines cancelled 172 flights (24%) and delayed 313 flights (44%). This certainly satisfies the definition of a meltdown.
- Horizon cancelled 50 flights (16%) and delayed 153 flights (50%).
- Delta Air Lines cancelled 136 flights (5%) and delayed 914 flights (44%).
- Spirit Airlines cancelled 108 flights (12%) and delayed 276 flights (33%).
- United Airlines canceled 104 flights (4%) and delayed 723 flights (33%).
- American Airlines cancelled 93 flights (3%) and delayed 529 flights (18%).
- JetBlue cancelled 82 flights (7%) and delayed 427 flights (41%).
- Allegiant Air cancelled 64 flights (12%) and delayed 216 flights (43%).
- Southwest Airlines cancelled 62 flights (1%) and delayed 1,550 flights (40%).
- Mesa cancelled 48 flights (9%) and delayed 137 flights (26%).
- Frontier cancelled 17 flights (3%) and delayed 214 flights (39%).
Seattle was hit with a particularly heavy storm, prompting so many cancellations and delays at Alaska Airlines and its Horizon subsidiary. SkyWest operates many flights on behalf of Delta from Seattle and also was heavily impacted.
Still, airlines continue to blame the omicron variant for the flight disruptions, dating back to Christmas Eve.
An American Airlines spokesperson clarified:
“Our operation has been running smoothly, and unfortunately a number of COVID-related sick calls led us to make the difficult decision to precancel some flights scheduled for today [Saturday].
“We proactively notified affected customers yesterday, and are working hard to rebook them quickly. We never want to disappoint our customers and apologize for any disruptions to their holiday travel plans.”
A Delta spokesperson also apologized for the delay:
“Flight cancellations are due to a combination of issues, including but not limited to, potential inclement weather in some areas and the impact of the omicron variant.
“We apologize to customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans. Delta people are working together around the clock to reroute and substitute aircraft and crews to get customers where they need to be as quickly and safely as possible. When that’s not possible, Delta Reservations specialists coordinated with our Operations and Customer Care Center to get those impacted on the next available flight.”
A JetBlue spokesperson explained:
“Like many businesses and organizations, we have seen an increasing number of sick calls from Omicron. We entered the holiday season with the highest staffing levels we’ve had since the pandemic began and are using all resources available to us to cover our staffing needs. Despite our best efforts, we’ve had to cancel a number of flights, and additional flight cancellations and other delays remain a possibility as we see more Omicron community spread.
“The health and safety of our crewmembers and customers remains our top priority as we work through this pandemic, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience that these schedule changes bring during the holidays.”
A United spokesperson noted:
“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.”
Thus far, both SkyWest and United have already canceled over 100 flights today. Southwest, JetBlue, and Delta are not far behind.
A holiday, bad weather, and a contagious new variant have created a perfect storm heavily impacting airline operations in the United States. While today may not be as bad as yesterday, it is already shaping up to be another rough day for U.S. travelers.
image: Liam Allport