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Airline cancellations are surging Thursday for a seventh straight day and threaten to throw off weekend flights home for holiday travelers.
Carriers canceled more than 1,000 US flights on Thursday and have already canceled 500 from Friday’s schedule, according to the aviation tracking website FlightAware.
In total, FlightAware recorded more than 8,500 US flight cancelations since Christmas Eve, when heavy holiday travel collided with a spike in coronavirus cases among industry workers and weather issues.
Alaska Airlines said winter weather in the Pacific Northwest are causing it to cancel one out of every five flights at Seattle, its headquarters, to “allow for the additional time it takes to deice aircraft.” It canceled 14% of Thursday flights and asked passengers who do not need to travel this week to reschedule for a later date.
“We strongly urge flyers with non-essential travel scheduled before January 2, 2022, to consider changing their travel to a later date using our flexible travel policy,” the airline said.
JetBlue Airways told CNN it has “seen a surge in the number of sick calls from Omicron” and will cut its schedule for the next two weeks to “give our customers give as much notice possible to make alternate plans and reaccommodate them on other flights.” It told Reuters the cuts amount to about 1,280 flights, or 10% of its schedule. JetBlue canceled about 17% of flights on Thursday, FlightAware said.
Budget leisure carrier Allegiant Air canceled 17% of its flights, according to FlightAware, and warned customers telephone hold times were “unusually long.”
United Airlines canceled 8% of its Thursday schedule, which FlightAware data show is about its average since Christmas Eve, and told CNN it is “managing this day by day.”
Delta Air Lines canceled 3% of its Thursday schedule but warned that it expects storms headed for its hubs in Salt Lake City and Detroit to complicate travel “in the coming days.”
The weather impacts aren’t limited to snow and ice. The Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged the jet stream weather pattern over the US was “stronger than usual” on Tuesday, reaching 170 knots in the air above the Great Lakes. A strong jet stream can slow west-bound travel and speed up east-bound flights at the high altitudes where aircraft operate.
Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines told CNN it has “yet to see any impact on our operation” from coronavirus illnesses but is “closely monitoring this.” President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told employees in a memo shared with CNN that Southwest carried 3 million passengers last week and canceled less than 1% of flights.
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