Covid-19, Omicron and Travel News: Live Updates

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Credit…David Zalubowski / Associated press

Flight disruptions in the United States showed little sign of slowing down on Monday, as many people made their first trip in nearly two years, and Dr Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, raised the possibility of a vaccination requirement for air travel.

At least 2,400 more flights were canceled on Monday, including around 900 US flights, as the highly transmissible variant of Omicron sends daily workloads to parts of the US reaching levels above last winter’s pandemic peak. .

While cancellations made up only a small percentage of all flights, the problem threatened to spread to the vacation week.

“When you make vaccination a requirement, it is another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Dr Fauci said. noted on MSNBC Monday. “If you want to do this with domestic flights, I think this is something that should be seriously considered.”

Over the holiday weekend, airlines canceled thousands of flights as the Omicron variant hit flight crews. In total, around 2,300 U.S. flights were canceled on the Saturday and Sunday of the Christmas holiday weekend, with more than 3,500 more stranded around the world, according to FlightAware, which provides aviation data. As of Sunday alone, more than 1,300 US flights and nearly 1,700 additional flights around the world were canceled.

While some of the groundings were caused by bad weather and maintenance issues, several airlines acknowledged that the current wave of coronavirus cases had contributed significantly. A spokesperson for JetBlue said the airline had “seen an increasing number of Omicron sickness calls.”

According to FlightAware, 12% of JetBlue flights, 6% of Delta Air Lines flights, 5% of United Airlines flights and 2% of American Airlines flights were canceled on Sunday.

Southwest Airlines canceled 68 flights, or 1%, according to FlightAware, because of the weather, said Dan Landson, a spokesperson for Southwest. “We have not had any operational issues related to Covid,” he said in an email.

Stock prices of United, Delta, American and Southwest – America’s four largest carriers – were less than 1% lower on Monday.

Travel has rebounded strongly this year, worsening the situation at airports: around two million people passed through checkpoints every day last week, according to the Transportation Security Administration, and the Sunday. The numbers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were much higher than last year, and some numbers even exceeded those of the same days two years ago, when virtually no American was aware that a virus was starting. to travel to the other side of the world.

There were hints that the worst cancellations could have happened in the United States. For example, Delta had planned to cancel about 200 flights on Sunday, less than the 300 it predicted the day before, according to a spokesperson. He only plans 40 cancellations on Monday.

On the flip side, airlines also expect plenty of travel on January 2, a Sunday. And the Omicron variant, which is now responsible for more than 70 percent of new coronavirus cases in the United States, has already helped push daily US case averages above 200,000 for the first time in nearly 12 months, according to The New York Times coronavirus tracker.

A commercial group of airlines has request the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to shorten the recommended isolation period for fully vaccinated employees who test positive to a maximum of five days, starting at 10 days, before they can come back with a negative test.

“Quick and secure adjustments by the CDC would ease at least some of the staffing pressures and set up airlines to help millions of travelers returning from vacation,” said Derek Dombrowski, a spokesperson for JetBlue. .

The flight attendants union, however, argued that reductions in recommended isolation times should be decided “by public health professionals, not the airlines.”

Some of the delays this weekend had little to do with the pandemic. Alaska Airlines has an extensive program in place to keep crews healthy and has even brought in members of its management team who are trained to be crew members, spokesperson Alexa Rudin said.

On Saturday and Sunday, there were only a handful of cancellations linked to crew exposure to the coronavirus, according to Rudin. Yet it had canceled 170 flights in those two days, according to FlightAware, including 21% of its Sunday flights, due to unusually cold and snowy weather in the Pacific Northwest, which affected its hub, the International Airport of Seattle-Tacoma.

In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is also facing a slight increase in positive cases among its staff. But Monday’s subway service was operating on a regular schedule, with a few exceptions, said Demetrius Crichlow, senior vice president of subways.


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