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Over 2,100 flights were canceled on Sunday around the world, following about 1,000 cancellations on Christmas Day.
According to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com, at least 2,162 cancellations have been reported around the world, with 669 occurring in the United States. Additionally, 5,900 flights have been delayed.
The latest cancellations follow nearly 2,000 flights that were delayed or canceled on Christmas Day, including flights within the country and those that left. This follows 690 flights that were canceled on Christmas Eve.
It is normal for air travel to peak over the Christmas holidays, but the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus prompted airlines to cancel flights and quarantine pilots and crew. Several major carriers have recently terminated the employment of hundreds of its employees due to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
More than 200 flights were canceled by United Airlines over the weekend, one of the first carriers to mandate vaccines.
“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” United spokesperson Maddie King said. According to her, United’s cancellations during the holiday season account for just a small percentage of its 4,000 average daily flights.
“We are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays,” she said.
Earlier on Sunday, Delta cancelled a few dozen more flights after scrapping 300 flights on Saturday. According to the firm, it attempted to use all possible options and resources, including rerouting and substitute crews for scheduled flights.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Los Angeles International Airport, and JFK International Airport in New York were the most affected U.S. airports. The Chinese airports took the brunt of the cancellations, accounting for six out of ten global airports.
Chinese airlines cancel the most flights, according to FlightAware data. Around 1,000 flights were canceled by China Easter, while Air China canceled roughly 20 percent of its flights.
“COVID-related sick calls” led American Airlines to cancel several flights on Saturday, it said in a statement.
According to Reuters, Southwest Airlines had no problems on Saturday with its flights.
In interviews with the media, passengers and travelers expressed frustration with airlines.
Peter Bockman, a retired actor who had a flight delayed to Dakar, Senegal, told the New York Post that nobody seemed to be organizing or trying to sort things out. No explanation was offered. Not even, ‘Oh we’re so sorry, this is what we can do to help you,’” he said.
In the wake of the cancellations, the Omicron strain is spreading rapidly in the United States, prompting the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to declare last week that the Omicron strain accounts for 90 percent of cases of COVID-19 in some regions.
Nevertheless, preliminary data indicate that Omicron may cause milder symptoms and fewer hospitalizations than prior variants. In spite of the spread of the variant, a number of countries and cities have implemented lockdowns, mandated more vaccines, or ordered mask-wearing.