US airlines continued to see mass flight cancelations Thursday as the omicron coronavirus variant took a toll on staff.
More than 1,190 flights scheduled to depart from the US were canceled, according to FlightAware, an industry-wide flight tracking service, and 4,300 others were delayed.
One airline spokeswoman, Maddie King, said she was unsure as to when operations would return to normal and that the industry had not anticipated the impact of the omicron variant on staff.
“This was unexpected,” she said.
FlightAware said that three airlines — United, Delta and JetBlue — had canceled more than 10% of scheduled Saturday flights and American Airlines also canceled 90 flights the same day.
The virus has created chaos, with staff shortages throughout the airline industry. On Wednesday,1,082 flights were grounded.
A United Airlines spokesperson told CBS News that the company is frantically trying to rebook customers.
“The nationwide spike in omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” a United Airlines spokesperson told CBS. “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 cancelations come at a time when people are depending on airlines for travel during the holiday season. The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said that as many as 6 million people were expected to board airlines.
The shortage is acute despite the fact that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened isolation times for asymptomatic patients, or those showing no symptoms, to five days from 10 to try to alleviate business staff shortages across the country.
The highly-transmissible omicron variant now accounts for 58.6% of all US infections.
“The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” the CDC said in a statement as reported by CBS.
The CDC said that those who do succeed in air travel should only do so if vaccinated, and they should wear a mask, practice social distancing and be tested frequently.
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