Hundreds of flights have been canceled across the U.S. as the Omicron COVID-19 variant strikes down plane crews and workers over the Christmas weekend.
As of Sunday morning, some 633 flights within, into or outside the U.S. were canceled, according to the data tracking website FlightAware.
The data tracking website added that 531 flights into, out of or within the U.S. had been delayed.
Companies blamed the number of cancellations on the number of staff who had become infected with COVID-19 over the Christmas weekend and, therefore, had called in sick.
Delta said it expected more than 300 of its flights would be canceled on Sunday, December 26 as a result due to a surge in Omicron cases as well as poor winter weather.
In a Christmas Day statement, a Delta Air Lines spokesperson said: « The airline canceled 368 mainline and connection flights of the day’s schedule that included approximately 3,000 scheduled flights after exhausting all options and resources to prevent those cancelations.
« We apologize to customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans. Delta people are working together around the clock to reroute and substitute aircraft and crews to get customers where they need to be as quickly and safely as possible.
« When that’s not possible, Delta reservations specialists coordinated with our operations and customer care center to get those impacted on the next available flight. »
An American Airlines spokesperson told Newsweek in a December 25 statement: « Our operation has been running smoothly and unfortunately a number of COVID-related sick calls led us to make the decision to precancel some flights scheduled today.
« We proactively notified affected customers yesterday, and are working hard to rebook them quickly. We never want to disappoint our customers and apologize for any disruptions to their travel plans. »
The situation reflects the impact Omicron and other issues have had on the aviation industry, with hundreds of flights having been canceled over the Christmas weekend.
Omicron has rapidly surged in the U.S. since it was first detected in South Africa in November and has now overtaken Delta as the most common COVID-19 variant in the U.S.
As of the latest data from December 18, an estimated 73.2 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are of the Omicron Variant.
In the U.S. there have been a total of 809,300 COVID deaths and 51,574,787 cases since the pandemic was declared in the spring of 2020.
According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, the number of deaths on December 22 registered in the U.S. was 1,522 and it was 2,170 on December 21.
Newsweek has contacted American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines for comment.