U.S. airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights on Boxing Day as crews grounded amid an increase in COVID-19 infections, causing misery for thousands of Christmas travelers.
Commercial airlines had canceled 1,001 flights within, to or from the United States by mid-afternoon, according to a count on flight tracking site FlightAware.com.
It was the third day in a row of travel pain and further cancellations were likely as COVID-19 infections skyrocketed, driven by the highly transmissible variant of Omicron.
A total of 997 flights were deleted on Christmas Day and nearly 700 on Christmas Eve. Thousands more were delayed over the three days.
The Christmas holidays, usually a peak travel time, coincided with a rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
Infections have risen sharply in many parts of the country, with the New York State Department of Health warning on Friday that it had recorded a “surprising” fourfold increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions for women. children under 18 since the week starting December 5.
With the upsurge in infections, airlines have been forced to cancel flights with pilots and cabin crew due to be quarantined. Bad weather in some areas also contributed to the problems.
âWinter weather conditions in parts of the United States and the Omicron variant continued to impact Delta’s vacation weekend flight schedule,â an airline spokesperson said in a statement. statement sent by email, adding that she was working on “rerouting and replacing planes and crews to get customers where they need to be as fast and safe as possible.”
A White House official, who requested to remain anonymous, said that despite the mess at some airports, “we are in a better place than last Christmas” and noted that “only a small percentage of flights are affected. “.
The US airports hardest hit by the cancellations were Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and JFK International in New York.
Omicron was first detected in November and now accounts for nearly three-quarters of cases in the United States and up to 90% in some areas, such as the east coast.
The average number of new coronavirus cases in the United States rose 45% to 179,000 per day over the past week, according to a Reuters tally.
While recent research suggests that Omicron produces milder disease and a lower hospitalization rate than previous iterations, health officials have maintained a cautious stance and say there is still much to be learned about the variant.
New York State Acting Health Commissioner Dr Mary Bassett said the “striking increase” in hospitalizations of children with COVID the state has recorded over the past three weeks showed that urgent action was needed.
All children over the age of five should be fully immunized, she said, while those under the age of five should be protected by ensuring those around them are protected with immunizations, boosters, wearing masks, avoiding crowds and tests.
âThe risks of COVID-19 for children are real,â Bassett said in a statement. The state health department said the increases were concentrated in New York City and surrounding areas where Omicron is spreading rapidly.
He said that in the most recent week, no child aged five to 11 admitted to hospital with COVID had been fully immunized.
Associated Australian Press