Travel

Airlines slash flights due to staff illness caused by Covid. More than 2,200 flights cancelled.

Business Insider US
 (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
  • Airlines are slashing flights for a sixth consecutive day, citing staff sickness and bad weather.
  • Among US airlines, United and SkyWest had the highest number of cancellations on Wednesday.
  • About 15,000 flights have been cancelled since Friday morning, according to FlightAware data.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Mass flight cancellations have hit travellers for the sixth consecutive day amid rising levels of airline staff sickness and bad weather in parts of the US.

As of Wednesday morning, 2,212 flights set to depart that day had been cancelled, according to figures from the flight-tracking website FlightAware. Data from the website suggests that about 15,000 flights have been cancelled since Friday morning.

Of Wednesday's cancellations, 714 — just under a third — were flights within, into, or out of the US, according to FlightAware's data at the time of writing.

United Airlines has cancelled 153 flights, or 7% of its total flights for the day, according to the data.

Alaska Airlines has cancelled 74 flights scheduled for Tuesday, or 11% of its flights, and JetBlue has cancelled 78 flights, or 7% of its schedule.

Delta has cancelled 88 flights, or 3%, and Spirit has canceled 56, or 7%.

SkyWest, which is contracted for some regional flights by Alaska, American, Delta, and United, has cancelled 144 flights on Tuesday, or about 6% of its scheduled flights.

American Airlines and SkyWest previously told Insider that they had cancelled some flights due to rising cases of Covid-19 among staff. A Delta spokesperson said the Omicron variant had affected the airline's schedule. The variant is now the dominant strain in the US.

Delta, Alaska, and SkyWest said that harsh weather conditions in parts of the US, including heavy snow in Washington state on Sunday, were also to blame for some cancellations.

More than 150 flights arriving in or departing from Seattle were cancelled on Tuesday, or 24%, and just under half of the flights that went ahead were delayed, per FlightAware data. Almost 200 flights set to arrive in or depart from Seattle-Tacoma on Wednesday were already cancelled as of Wednesday morning.

The bulk of Wednesday's cancelled flights were operated by Chinese airlines, including China Eastern, which has cancelled 441 flights, or 21%, and Air China, which has canceled 207 flights, or 17%.

Xi'an, a city in central China with around 13 million residents, entered a strict lockdown on December 23 amid a sudden surge in coronavirus cases. As of Wednesday morning, 19% of that day's flights to Xi'an Xianyang International Airport and 21% of flights from the airport had been cancelled, per FlightAware data.

The Indonesian airline Lion Air has also cancelled 109 flights, or 22% of its schedule for Wednesday.

The three airlines didn't respond to Insider's requests for comment.

Airlines have been canceling flights since Christmas Eve

On Tuesday, 3,129 flights were canceled, including 1,291 departing from or arriving in the US, and 14,513 flights were delayed, with just under half of these departing from or arriving in the US.

Among US airlines, SkyWest had the highest number of cancellations on Tuesday, cancelling 362 flights, or 15% of its schedule, and Horizon had the highest percentage of its flights cancelled, at 24%, per FlightAware data.

Airlines cancelled about 3,300 flights on each of Sunday and Monday, with almost half of these departing from or arriving in the US, according to FlightAware data.

Airlines also cancelled at least 4,200 flights across Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

It's not just airlines being affected by rising Covid-19 cases. The New York City Transit Authority said on Sunday that subways would be less frequent because of the Covid-19 surge, which had caused staff sickness. The CDC is also investigating or observing almost 90 cruise ships amid Covid-19 outbreak.

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