Delta, United and a number of other airlines have canceled a number of flights on Christmas Eve, currently sitting at more than 2,000. CNN reports that the cancellations seem to stem from airline staff staff and crew calling out sick, amid the rise of the Covid19: Omicron variant surge. The news outlet reports that, of the over 2,000 global flights which have been shut down, 454 U.S. flights have been canceled.
CNN obtained a United Airlines memo that clarified the company's position on their flight cancellations. "The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation," the United memo read in part. United also said it is "notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport," per an official statement from the company. "We're sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays."
More than 3,000 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day flights were canceled globally because of the recent spike of Omicron cases, including among airline workers. https://t.co/qXq5QaeCpn— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 24, 2021
Delta also issued a statement, expressing regret at having to cancel flights. "We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans," the statement read. "Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight."
The new cancellations come just days after the CEOs of American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines — as well as Delta's chief of operations — testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation regarding a $54 billion in taxpayer aid that helped them through the initial wave of the Covid pandemic. According to CNBC, the airline leadership were forced to explain the sudden surge in flight cancellations, after being bailed out by taxpayers. "I can sum up the [Payroll Support Program] in two words: It worked," stated Southwest CEO Gary Kelly.
"It's not an exaggeration to say the program saved the airline industry, which Congress and the administration recognized as critical infrastructure that is as essential to the economy as it is unique," added American Airlines CEO, Doug Parker. Previously, on quarterly business call, Delta CEO Ed Bastian addressed resolving employee issues, telling shareholders, "We're getting a nice juniority benefit as we bring in a whole new generation of employees at essentially every level of the company." He continued, "We had close to 20,000 people retire a year ago, so the top end ... many of our most experienced employees have chosen to retire, and that's opened up opportunities for younger people."