COVID-19 continues to cause chaos worldwide, even as we step into 2022. The impact is exceptionally high in the United States, where 8000 flights have been canceled and delayed due to the surge of the Omicron variant.
The Omicron variant has triggered a record-breaking spread of infections in the US, leading many states to reintroduce mask mandates. The new COVID-19 variant has evaded a concentrated and impressive vaccine roll-out. And although studies indicate it is not as deadly or severe as previous variants such as Delta, the authorities are on high alert and concerned about its rapid spread.
According to euronews.com, airlines across the world suffered from COVID-related flight cancellations. A shortage of air staff severely impacted the three-day Christmas weekend due to a large number of members testing positive for Omicron. Passengers across the country were frustrated by the ongoing pandemic, flight cancellations and delays, and travel restrictions.
At Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport in the state of Minnesota, Tamera Robinson was highly distressed to have her flight canceled at the last minute and explained, “I booked this trip in February, and we had no idea we would still be dealing with COVID. It’s crazy.” United Airlines, whose flight crews and staff have tested positive for Omicron, released a statement that said, “We have unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport.”
According to USA Today, on January 1st, more than 2,600 flights were canceled within a day. Although some of those flights were canceled due to bad weather, the majority were due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. In the past week alone, there have been more than 1.8 million new COVID cases in the US, which experts stress impacts the travel industry.
American Airlines pilot and spokesperson for the pilot’s union, Captain Dennis Tajer explained, “We look at flights but see, the thing is they are connected to people. For each one of those passengers, there may be 5 to 10 friends and family members that were counting on them being at the holiday table.”
Independent travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt added, “I hope that in the next week, because of the new guidelines posted by the CDC that say employers who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic can return to work if they feel well enough to do so. We will start to see the number of cancelations go down.”