Major flight cancellations continue as Omicron causes staff shortages

▶ Watch Video: CDC cuts COVID isolation in half after airlines cancel thousands of flights over holiday weekend

Airlines across the United States have continued major flight cancellations as the COVID-19 Omicron variant outbreak continues to cause industry-wide staffing shortages.

As of Wednesday morning, 856 flights in, out and within the U.S have been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware.  United canceled 158 flights, Delta canceled 105 flights, and JetBlue and Spirit canceled 96 and 58 flights respectively.

An additional 7,362 flights have been delayed, with the largest struggles taking place in airports with international hubs, like Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle-Tacoma and Denver International Airport.

JetBlue and Spirit did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.

A spokesperson for Delta said as winter weather and the Omicron variant continue to “hamper operations,” the airline expects to cancel an additional 145 flights by the end of the day.

A spokesperson from United Airlines told CBS News on Wednesday that 150 of that day’s cancellations were due to COVID-19 staffing issues, but they are working to rebook as many customers as possible.

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” a United Airlines spokesperson said. “As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport.”

The continued cancellations are apart of an ongoing struggle between airlines that are short staffed and consumers dependent on air travel for the holiday season. The Transportation Safety Administration has said that travel has continued to return to pre-pandemic numbers, with 1,995,747 people screened at security checkpoints on Tuesday alone. Six million people are expected to fly, according to the TSA.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 Omicron variant has continued to cause an uptick in positive case reports around the country. The Centers for Disease Control said that as of December 25, Omicron cases made up of 58.6% of all infections in the U.S, with a 95% prediction interval of 41.5-74%.

On Monday, the CDC shortened the previously recommended 10 isolation period to 5 days for asymptomatic patients in effort to aid workforces, like airlines, reeling from a shortage of workers.

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”

For travelers who flights have not been cancelled and are still planning on using air travel, the CDC continues to recommend only traveling if vaccinated, and then mask wearing, social distancing and testing frequently.

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