Airlines cancel more than 1,000 flights for the 11th day in a row

Nearly 1,700 U.S. flights were canceled Wednesday night, the 11th straight day of more than 1,000 cancellations and the worst period in the airline industry since the start of the pandemic.

Airlines also delayed more than 3,900 flights Wednesday night, according to airline data tracker FlightAware. Airlines have canceled more than 22,000 flights since Christmas Eve.

In 2020, the airline industry went through a rough patch from late March to early May, when it canceled nearly a third of all scheduled flights and cut thousands of trips per day for 47 consecutive days. Airlines cut flights as demand for travel collapsed and border restrictions were imposed during the early weeks of the US pandemic

The airline industry has been struggling with labor shortages for months, while consumer demand has bounced back strongly. Incentives and scaled back schedules helped the industry get through the Thanksgiving holiday for the most part without a hitch.

But then came the Omicron variant, causing staff shortages at multiple airlines as crews called in sick. Bad weather in the Pacific Northwest that spread to the Midwest and East Coast regions has also compounded problems for the industry.

While some airlines continue to cut large chunks of their daily schedules, others, including JetBlue Airways Corp..

and American Airlines Group Inc.

showed some improvement.

Southwest Airlines Co.

canceled 510 flights Wednesday night, about 16% of the day’s schedule, and delayed 363, according to FlightAware. The airline said bad weather at its hubs in Baltimore, Denver and Chicago was the cause of many of the cancellations.

SkyWest Inc.

, a commuter carrier that flies on behalf of four major airlines, canceled 295 flights Wednesday night, 13% of its West Coast-directed flights for today, and delayed another 363 trips, according to FlightAware. The airline said it is also dealing with staff shortages due to Covid-19 and is cutting many of the remaining flights it offers until January to ensure it has enough staff on hand to operate those flights. to feed.

Schools, Wall Street, retailers and companies in various sectors in the US are feeling the effects of the wave of Omicron. But airlines have been particularly affected because they operate under strict safety regulations that limit their ability to respond to staff disruptions.

Travelers at Miami International Airport on Monday. Airlines face staff shortages as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 causes a spate of reported infections.


Photo:

Chandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Pilots are not always trained to fly multiple aircraft types. Employees such as flight coordinators and mechanics can safely take on only so much extra work, leaving airlines sometimes with no choice but to resort to cancellations.

Alaska Air Group Inc.

canceled 114 flights on Wednesday evening, 16% of scheduled flights for the day, and delayed another 61.

“Like many airlines, this latest wave of Covid is driving higher-than-normal absenteeism among all of our workgroups,” an Alaska Air Group spokeswoman said. “This is compounded by the residual effects of winter weather in several of our key hubs.”

JetBlue, which has canceled more than 100 flights in the past seven days, had four cancellations on Wednesday night. The carrier did not respond to a request for comment. It has previously said it would shorten its schedule to mid-January, citing more of its employees contracting Covid-19.

American Airlines canceled 21 flights Wednesday night after canceling more than 500 flights from Saturday through Monday. The company declined to comment.

Airlines canceled more than 3,000 U.S. flights on Monday and delayed more than 5,000. The new wave of cancellations and delays comes as the rise in Covid-19 infections in the US has stretched the airline industry. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Write to Joseph De Avila at joseph.deavila@wsj.com

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Appeared in the January 6, 2022 print edition as ‘Airlines’ Canceled Flights Top 1,000 Again.’

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