Thousands of flights within the United States and internationally were postponed or canceled early Friday, adding to travel disruptions during the holiday week due to bad weather and a spike in cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
More than 2,400 flights have been canceled globally as of Friday morning, including more than 1,100 within, entering or leaving the United States, according to a running tally on flight-tracking website FlightAware.com. There were nearly 4,000 global flight delays in total.
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The Christmas holidays are usually the prime time for air travel, but the rapid spread of the transmissible Omicron variant has led to a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections, forcing airlines to cancel flights as pilots and cabin crew need to be quarantined.
The sudden arrival of Omicron brought a record number of issues to countries all over the world. Transportation agencies across the United States are suspending or reducing service due to staffing shortages in COVID-19 as the Omicron variable rises nationwide.
A Reuters statistic showed that the United States recorded, on Thursday, for the second day in a row, a record number of new cases reported based on an average of seven days, with more than 290,000 new infections reported every day, while US officials weigh the impact of Omicron variant.
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COVID-19: Omicron variant cancels New Year’s celebrations in the US
New York State, in particular, reported more than 74,000 cases of COVID-19 Thursday from more than 336,000 tests, with a positive rate of 22 percent, New York Gov. Cathy Hochhol said.
New York said last week it would sharply limit the number of people it allowed into Times Square to celebrate New Year’s Eve. However, some critics have raised concerns about the celebrations continuing at all, given the high positivity rate.
American Airlines cabin crew, pilots and support staff are reluctant to work overtime during the holiday travel season despite huge financial incentive offers. Some airline unions have said that many workers fear contracting COVID-19 and do not welcome the prospect of dealing with unruly passengers.
In the months leading up to the holiday, airlines were courting staff to ensure there were strong staff, after laying off or laying off thousands over the past 18 months as the pandemic paralyzed the industry.