Because to Omicron-induced labor shortages, Alaska Airlines has revealed a dramatic plan to cut its January flight schedule by up to 10%.
The Seattle-based airline can no longer run the airline “reliably.”
As the highly-transmissible Omicron strain grips the United States, the carrier said it has received a “unprecedented” number of employee sick calls in recent weeks.
Thousands of flights were canceled during the busy Christmas and New Year travel season, which was primarily due to staff shortages caused by sick calls.
Alaska Airlines was also affected by snowy weather in the North West, which further slowed operations.
“As we have entered 2022, the continued impacts of omicron have been disruptive in all our lives and unprecedented employee sick calls have impacted our ability to operate our airline reliably,” the airline said in a statement on Thursday.
“We’re at our best when we are safe, reliable and caring.
And right now, we need to build more reliability back into our operation as we deal with the impacts of omicron and during a time when guests generally fly less,” the statement continued.
“We’ve decided to reduce departures by about 10% through the end of January. This will give us the flexibility and capacity needed to reset while continued flexible travel policies enable guests to adjust their plans accordingly. This will also give us time and space to find our path forward together, with Covid-19 as a continued reality in our business and our world.”
JetBlue stated last week that it would cancel a substantial number of scheduled flights over the next few weeks due to the same personnel issues.
As the Omicron wave reaches its peak, the airline expects sickness levels to rise in the coming weeks.
Delta Air Lines, on the other hand, expressed optimism that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new isolation guidance would help alleviate staffing shortages because people infected with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic or whose symptoms are improving now only need to isolate for five days.
The airline has been chastised by the Association of Flight Attendants, which claims Delta is endangering passengers’ safety by allowing infected employees to work.
Delta has played down those fears, claiming that Omicron infection clears faster than prior types, implying that people are infectious for a shorter time.