Washington: Over 1000 flights from leading US airliners were cancelled on Sunday as more and more flight crew called in sick, raising fears of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. In response to heavy disruptions, major airline executives have called for halving mandatory quarantine from 10 days to 5 in order to prevent staffing shortages, reported CNBC.
A total of 1500 flights were cancelled which threw a spanner in the holiday plans of many travellers.
Data from flight-tracking site FlightAware showed that Delta cancelled 6% of its schedule, or 164 flights on Sunday after cancelling 310 a day earlier. United had cancelled 113 flights, or 5% of its mainline schedule, down from 240 flights on Saturday. JetBlue cancelled 252 flights Saturday and Sunday. American Airlines dropped 178 flights over the weekend, CNBC reported.
"Winter weather in portions of the US and the Omicron variant continued to impact Delta's holiday weekend flight schedule," a Delta spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Reuters, adding that the company was working to "reroute and substitute aircraft and crews to get customers where they need to be as quickly and safely as possible."
Bryan Quigley, United Airlines' senior vice president of flight operations wrote a missive to pilots in service of the airline, revealing that a high number of pilots had tested positive for Covid-19 or were in mandatory quarantine, which was a concern for the airline.
"Now as we approach 2019 flying levels, we meust do all we can to ensure we are protected so that we can fly the schedule," he said.
Staffing shortages have also led airlines to offer higher pay and bonus incentives to ensure that flight crew can make it to assigned operations, even going as far as to assign managers to the duty if they are trained, the CNBC report said. US carrier JetBlue has also announced that crew who have followed 5 days out of the mandatory 10-day quarantine can rejoin work while taking adequate precautions and staying home as much as possible for the rest of the period.