United, Delta and JetBlue have canceled more than 300 flights on Christmas Eve, sending travel plans into chaos on one of the busiest days of the winter holiday season.
United and Delta have so far canceled at least 280 flights collectively, while 49 flights under JetBlue have been grounded, as cases of the new and highly transmissible Omicron variant continue to surge nationwide.
According to Flight Aware, airlines including Allegiant, Skywest, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Frontier disrupted holiday travel plans on Christmas Eve. In total, 418 cancelations have been made for flights within, into, or out of the U.S. so far, while 221 delays have been recorded.
Earlier, United, the third-largest airline in the world, issued a statement saying it had canceled 112 Christmas Eve flights out of caution, citing the surge in Omicron infections.
« The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation, » the airline said in a statement Thursday. « As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport. »
« We’re sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays, » the statement said.
Since then, the airline’s cancelations have risen to 166.
In a similar statement, Delta Airlines announced that it had canceled 82 flights on Christmas Eve, also citing the rapid increase in Omicron cases across the country.
« Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources – including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying – before canceling around 90 flights for Friday, » the airline said in a statement. « Delta people are working hard to get [travelers] to where they need to be as quickly and safely as possible on the next available flight. »
Delta has now grounded at least 115, flights, according to Flight Aware.
Among other last-minute cancelations, Allegiant Air has grounded 12 flights, Mesa Airlines and Alaska Airlines have both canceled 10 flights each, Skywest has canceled nine flights, American Airlines has grounded six, Cape Air four, Spirit five, Frontier three, while CommutAir and Endeavor Air have struck off one flight each.
A spokesperson for American Airlines, one of the world’s largest airlines, told Newsweek on Thursday that « American Airlines is not currently seeing anything out of the ordinary in relation to Christmas Eve. »
It serves as the latest blow to travelers this holiday season. It comes as the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus on Monday became the dominant source of new infections in the U.S.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the variant now accounts for roughly 73 percent of new infections nationwide,
The Omicron variant was designated by the World Health Organization as a « variant of concern » on November 26, and has since been reported in some 90 countries.