According to United Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby, United Airlines is reducing its flight schedules to deal with staff shortages. About 3000 United Airlines employees, comprising 4% of its total workforce, tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in a massive workforce shortage.
The United States has been struggling with the surge in COVID-19 cases since the Christmas holidays, and the latest development from United Airlines depicts the US aviation industry’s struggle with the pandemic.
Besides pandemic, the United States faces challenges with harsh weather forcing many airlines to cancel flights.
United Airlines CEO Kirby appreciated its workforce for putting their best foot forward during this challenging time in a memo to the staff. “Omicron has put a strain on the airline’s operations,” he said. None of the fully-vaccinated crew members are admitted to the hospital.
Kirby did not reveal the count of flights it is cancelling. Besides United Airlines, JetBlue Airways recently reduced 1280 flights, 10% of its schedule, from January 6, as its crew members fell sick.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends ten days of isolation for fully vaccinated people, if contracted with the virus. Delta Airlines had sent a letter to CDC requesting to reduce the number of days from 10 to five to deal with the staff shortages.
Bad weather and COVID-19 hit US airlines operations
Flight cancellations in the US topped 1,000 each day from December 26-31, 2021, when heavy snows and bitter cold wreaked havoc on the Pacific Northwest. According to a memo released by JetBlue, the airlines received “record-breaking sick calls” from its employees during the period.
Since Christmas, US airlines have reported several flight cancellations. SkyWest Airlines has cancelled more than 5,100 trips than any other airline. Southwest Airlines reported 4,800 cancellations, and United cancelled over 2,800 flights. Delta made more than 2,000 flight cancellations. In statements, SkyWest blamed ’a surge in COVID-19 cases’. Southwest said that it was experiencing an uptick in sick calls and quarantines.
Several airlines have started to reduce flights in January 2022 to ensure they have the workforce available to address the holiday disruptions and prevent further operational disruptions. Flight cancellations are continuing this week, although less in numbers.