United, Other Airlines Cancel Flights Due to Omicron

United Airlines, Delta, JetBlue and Allegiant were among those canceling flights, the latest blow to the holiday season.

Thousands of would-be travelers received the same troubling message on Thursday: a last-minute cancellation of their Christmas Eve flight because of the recent spike of Omicron cases.

United Airlines canceled at least 131 flights scheduled to leave dozens of airports on Friday — along with 28 more that were supposed to take off on Saturday, according to Flight Aware. Other airlines, including Delta, JetBlue and Allegiant, did the same.

In Australia, hundreds of flights were also canceled at airports in the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne as coronavirus cases in the country surged to their highest since the start of the pandemic.

The number of cancellations globally as of Thursday evening added up to more than 1,500 as of Thursday evening, the website showed.

It’s the latest blow to the holiday season caused by the new and highly transmissible Omicron variant, which now accounts for more than 70 percent of new coronavirus cases. Nearly 170,000 people are testing positive everyday, a 38 percent increase over the last two weeks, according to The New York Times’s coronavirus tracker.

In its statement, United said that Omicron’s “direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation” led to the cancellations.

Crew members had been calling in sick, according to spokesman Joshua Freed, who said that United alerted customers as soon as it could. And while Mr. Freed doesn’t expect the airline will cancel more flights, it remained a possibility.

“We are really managing this day by day,” he said. “There may be some more flight cancellations for Saturday. It’s possible.”

Dozens of customers took to social media to air their grievances about the last-minute cancellations, including John Ferris who tweeted: “You’ve got be kidding me. And there are apparently no available flights for days. Ba humbug.”

In its statement, the airline said it is working to rebook as many people as possible in time for the holidays.

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