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Omicron: Delta, Lufthansa, United Airlines cancel 296 transatlantic flights over Christmas

Photo: JOC.Com

*At least three major international airlines have cancelled a dozen long-haul transatlantic flights over the Christmas holiday period because of a ‘massive rise’ in sick leave among pilots over infections with the Omicron variant of COVID-19

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

About three major global airlines have stated that they cancelled dozens of flights because illnesses largely linked to the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The airlines said incidents had taken a toll on flight crew numbers during the busy holiday travel season.

ConsumerConnect learnt the Germany-based Lufthansa Friday, December 24, 2021, said it was cancelling a dozen long-haul transatlantic flights over the Christmas holiday period because of a “massive rise” in sick leave among pilots.

The cancellations on flights to Houston, Boston and Washington also come despite a “large buffer” of additional staff for the period in the United States (US).

Lufthansa in a statement said that the airlines couldn’t speculate on whether COVID-19 infections or quarantines were responsible because it was not informed about the sort of illness as passengers were booked on other flights.

The airline stated: “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.”

The US-based Delta Airlines and United Airlines also disclosed that they had to cancel dozens of Christmas Eve flights because of staff shortages tied to the Omicron variant. United cancelled 169 flights, and Delta called off 127, according to FlightAware.

United Airlines in a statement to several news outlets also 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.”

The airline said it was working to rebook as air travellers as possible.

Likewise, Delta Airlines Friday announced it cancelled flights due to the impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and possibility of bad weather after it had “exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying.”

It said in a statement to several outlets that it was trying to get passengers to their destinations quickly.

The cancellations come as Coronavirus infections fuelled by the new variant further squeeze staffing at hospitals, police departments, supermarkets and other critical operations struggling to maintain a full contingent of front-line workers.

However, in order to ease off staffing shortages, countries including Spain and the United Kingdom (UK) have reduced the length of COVID-19 quarantines by letting people return to work sooner after testing positive or being exposed to the virus, report stated.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian was among those who have called on the Biden administration to take similar steps or risk further disruptions in air travel.

The US Thursday, December 23 shortened COVID-19 isolation rules for healthcare workers only in the country.

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