Due to a pilot shortage coming from an increase in sickness levels, German flag carrier Lufthansa was forced to cancel many transatlantic flights over the Christmas holidays.
Lufthansa said it had set aside a big number of reserve pilots for the holiday season, but it had already ran out of pilots and had to cancel a limited number of flights.
A spokeswoman for Lufthansa declined to comment on whether the high sickness rate was due to the highly transmissible Omicron variety.
As Omicron spreads across Europe, Germany reported more than 44,000 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday.
SAS, a pan-Scandinavian airline, is experiencing similar personnel issues and had to cancel up to 40 flights on Tuesday.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the airline was able to rebook some of the cancelled flights, but high sickness levels continue to wreak havoc on SAS’s operations.
According to local media, Lufthansa is having difficulty finding trained Airbus A330 pilots, and flights using these planes are expected to be impacted in the coming days.
The few cancelled routes over the holidays pale in comparison to the number of services Lufthansa will cancel in the first few months of 2022 as a result of the Omicron version.
Because of the pandemic fear, Lufthansa’s chief executive Carsten Spohr announced that the airline will cancel about 10% of its schedule.
“Above all we are missing passengers in our home markets of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium, because these countries have been hit hardest by the pandemic wave,” Spohr said. In total, around 33,000 flights will be cancelled from January through the end of March 2022.
Spohr claimed he wanted to cancel even more flights but that the carrier would fly 18,000 “unnecessary” trips merely to keep landing and takeoff rights that would otherwise be lost if Lufthansa didn’t use its assigned slots.
Delta Air and jetBlue have written to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, requesting that the recommended isolation duration in breakthrough COVID-19 cases be lowered by up to five days to avoid a potential personnel shortage.