Covid: Thousands of flights cancelled as travel disruption extends into new week

More than 1,000 flights are cut in the United States as Omicron variant sickens crews

More than 1,000 flights in the United States and thousands more globally were cancelled on Sunday as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus sickened crews during one of the year’s busiest weekends for travel.

As of Sunday evening, more than 1,300 flights with at least one stop in the United States, and more than two times as many around the world, had been cancelled, according to FlightAware, which provides aviation data.

Sunday’s figures followed thousands of global flight cancellations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The cancellations disrupted travel plans at a time when many fly to spend the Christmas holiday with their families.

However, in the United States, the tradition appeared to rebound this year: Roughly two million people passed through screening checkpoints each day last week, according to the Transportation Security Administration, and the numbers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were nearly double the equivalent figures last year.


Twelve per cent of JetBlue flights, 6 per cent of Delta Air Lines flights, 5 per cent of United Airlines flights and 2 per cent of American Airlines flights on Sunday had been cancelled by midday, according to FlightAware.

As the Omicron variant spreads rapidly, the United States is experiencing a sharp rise in Covid cases. Its daily average on Christmas of roughly 201,000 daily cases, according to The New York Times’s coronavirus tracker, exceeds the average case load during this summer’s peak, which was driven by the Delta variant.

An airline trade group has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to shorten the recommended isolation period for fully vaccinated employees who test positive to a maximum of five days from 10 days before they can return with a negative test.

“Swift and safe adjustments by the CDC would alleviate at least some of the staffing pressures and set up airlines to help millions of travellers returning from their holidays,” said a JetBlue spokesman.

The flight attendants union, however, has urged that reductions in recommended isolation times should be decided on "by public health professionals, not airlines". – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.