According to a flight tracking website FlightAware, more than 2,000 flights were cancelled on Friday, causing disruptions for passengers heading home for Christmas.
Christmas Eve cancellations were sparked by the rapidly spreading variant of Omicron coronavirus that prevented airlines from staffing their flights.
Five airlines canceled the bulk of the flights, with China Eastern canceling 474 trips, Air China scrapping 188, United canceling 180, Air India cancelling 160, and Delta cancelling 127.
Flight tracking firm FlightAware reported 2,031 cancelled flights worldwide on Christmas Eve, including 448 in the US.
United Airlines said that “the nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has been impacting our flight crews and our operations staff directly. As a result, some flights have been canceled, and we are notifying customers impacted in advance of their arrival at the airport.”
While Delta said it considered “all options and resources, including rerouting and substituting aircraft and crews, in order to cover scheduled flights this Friday”, it canceled about 90 flights for Friday. The airline attributed the cancellations to the Omicron variant and poor weather conditions.
Airlines have called for the relaxation of quarantine rules for vaccinated staff in response to the pre-holiday chaos.
Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, has asked the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the self-isolation period from 10 to five days for vaccinated people who experienced breakthrough infections. Airlines for America and JetBlue also seconded the request.
On Christmas Eve, carriers’ social media pages were flooded with complaints from upset passengers. The cancellations can be traced to Omicron, which is rapidly spreading.