Yet another airline is canceling hundreds of flights amid a surge of sick calls over COVID-19.
JetBlue, one of the largest carriers in the nation, has preemptively canceled 1,280 flights between the end of December and Jan. 13.
In a statement to Nexstar, the airline said:
“Like many businesses and organizations, we have seen a surge in the 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 cover our staffing needs. To give our customers give as much notice possible to make alternate plans and reaccommodate them on other flights, we are proactively reducing our schedule through January 13.”
According to FlightAware, a flight-tracking service, JetBlue has canceled 175 flights for Thursday and another 143 for Friday. Nearly 80 have been canceled for Saturday.
A fee waiver has been put in place for all customers with travel through January who want to adjust plans. More details can be found on JetBlue’s website.
When making cancellations, the company says it is focusing on flights “where there is the least amount of disruption to customers, especially in cases where we can combine flights to the same destination.”
According to JetBlue, many of its employees are volunteering to work additional hours to minimize the impact on flights. The company is also calling on leaders and managers to staff frontline operations.
This comes just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cut isolation restrictions from 10 to five days for Americans who catch the coronavirus, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine. JetBlue says that while this is beneficial for the airline, more cancellations could still occur.
“While the new CDC guidelines should help get crewmembers back to work sooner, and our schedule reduction and other efforts will further ease day-of cancellations, we expect the number of COVID cases in the northeast – where most of our crewmembers are based – to continue to surge for the next week or two. This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down.”
Flight cancellations have been on the rise nationwide since Christmas. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines were forced to cancel dozens of flights for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, largely due to the omicron variant impacting staffing.
Earlier this week, many of the nation’s airlines had to cancel flights not only due to staffing but also because of inclement weather. More than 1,500 flights into, out of, or within the U.S. were canceled Sunday. As of Monday night, 3,105 flights had been canceled and 14,239 delayed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.