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Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights on Monday as rising Omicron cases wreak havoc on the travel industry

Airlines canceled almost 2,000 flights on Monday, according to FlightAware.

Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

  • Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights on Monday, according to FlightAware.
  • Around a third of the canceled flights were set to depart from or arrive in the US.
  • Some airlines have attributed the chaos to rising staff cases of COVID-19 and harsh weather.

After thousands of cancelations over the holiday weekend, airlines continued to slash flights on Monday amid rising cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and bad winter weather.

As of Monday morning, 2,052 flights set to depart that day had been canceled, according to figures from flight-tracking website FlightAware.

Of these cancellations, 706 – or around a third – were flights within, into, or out of the US, per FlightAware.

At the US’ two biggest airlines, American Airlines had canceled 77 flights, or 2% of its total flights for the day, and United Airlines had canceled 85 flights, or 4%, according to FlightAware data.

Alaska Airlines had canceled 76 flights scheduled for Monday, or 11% of all flights, and JetBlue had canceled 66 flights, or 6% of its schedule.

Delta had canceled 54 flights, Spirit canceled 34 flights, and Horizon canceled 19 flights.

And SkyWest, which is contracted for some regional flights by Alaska, American, Delta, and United Airlines, canceled 160 flights on Monday, making up around 6% of its scheduled flights.

The bulk of Monday’s canceled flights were operated by Chinese airlines, including China Eastern, which had canceled 405 flights, and Air China, which had canceled 193 flights. Elsewhere, Indonesian airline Lion Air had also canceled 111 flights.

Monday’s travel chaos comes after airlines canceled around 3,300 flights on Sunday, with almost half of these departing from or arriving in the US, per FlightAware.

Hong Kong has suspended some flights by Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and Qatar flights from locations including Dubai, London, and New York. Hong Kong said on Saturday that some arrivals had tested positive for the virus.

Omicron has caused a wave of airline staff sickness

AP reported that some US airlines have attributed their cancelations to staff members who have caught or been exposed to the coronavirus.

A United spokesperson told the outlet that Omicron’s impact on staffing was unexpected and that it was unclear when operations would return to normal. Coronavirus cases among the airline’s pilots are on the rise, United’s senior vice-president of flight operations said Sunday in a staff memo obtained by CNBC.

A JetBlue spokesperson told Fox Business that there were an “increasing number of sick calls from Omicron” and that the airline was trying to cancel flights that would cause the least disruption to passengers.

Omicron is the dominant coronavirus strain in the US and cases are surging in other countries, too. Studies suggest that the variant is more transmissible than previous variants like Delta, though some data suggests that its symptoms appear milder.

Delta, Alaska, and Southwest spokespeople told Fox Business that harsh weather conditions, including heavy snow in Washington on Sunday, were also to blame for some of the cancelations.

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