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United Airlines is responding to the rise in COVID cases by reducing an unspecified amount of flights to “make sure we have the personnel and resources to take care of our customers,” company CEO Scott Kirby stated in a letter to employees, USA Today said.
Kirby stated that 3,000 of the airline’s employees in United States – about 4.5% of the workforce – have been positive for COVID. About a third of United employees in Newark (N.J.) have called in sick during the busy holiday travel season. Newark Liberty International is one of United’s hubs.
“Our frontline team continues to put in a tremendous effort during what I know is a very challenging and stressful time. The omicron surge has put the company under pressure, resulting in customer disruptions during a busy holiday season,” Kirby said in the memo, according to USA Today.
Flight tracker FlightAware said United cancelled at least 149 flights on Tuesday, the highest number of any major U.S. airline.
JetBlue reduced about 1,300 flights between December and January because of the high number of sick employees.
“Like many businesses and organizations, we have seen a surge in sick calls from Omicron,” JetBlue said in an announcement to the websiteUSA Today. “To give our customers as much notice as they can to create alternate plans and reaccommodate them on other flights, we are proactively cutting our schedule for January 13.”
Alaska Airlines also cut flights because of employees who called in sick.
Southwest Airlines is also reacting to a large number of sick employees.
The union of airline pilots reported that 600 pilots were sick for a day earlier in the month. Southwest canceled 143 flights on Tuesday, USA Today said.
USA Today reported that Southwest sent employees a memo stating that the company’s contact trace program would be ended and that the airline will cut down the time to isolate for those who have a positive test from 10 to five days. The CDC has provided guidance.
USA Today – “United Airlines: 3,000 employees have a positive COVID and plans to cut flights”
USA Today – “JetBlue cancels nearly 1,300 flights in mid-January due to sick calls from omicron.”
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