The Seattle based company Alaska Airlines, is the latest U.S. carrier to cancel upcoming flights for the rest of January, due to the spread of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant that is sweeping across the nation. This comes on the heels of the announcement made by JetBlueAirlines last Monday announcing their plans to cut more than 1,280 of their flights through mid-January.
Alaska Cancels January Flights
Alaska Airlines, a company that flies an average of 1,200 daily flights to 115 destinations across the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica, said Thursday that it will trim its schedule by roughly 10% for the rest of the month of January, citing the rise of the Covid-19 amongst the staff. This means nearly 100 flights a day will likely be dissolved, leaving passengers scrambling and struggling to change their upcoming plans.
In a statement released on Thursday from Alaska Airlines, they stated,
“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. To our guests we apologize for the considerable inconvenience and are working hard to return to the level of service they know and expect from us.”
Adding to Alaska Airlines woes have been the inclement weather that has continued to beat down on the Pacific Northwest – a region where Alaska Airlines heavily serves, with hubs in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Anchorage. With the combination of Covid-19 and weather, travelers should expect even more possible cancellations on top of the 10% already planned to be scrapped.
Regional Carriers Struggle
Mainline Alaska Airlines was responsible for canceling 120 of their flights on Thursday alone, which was 17% of their schedule. This total DOES NOT include regional carriers, such as Horizon Air and SkyWest Airlines who fly smaller jets under the Alaska brand. SkyWest in particular, also flies to smaller markets around the country under the American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express name. This regional company averages more than 2,400 flights per day to 250 cities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. SkyWest Airlines this past Wednesday was responsible for canceling 350 of their scheduled flights, which made up 15% of its schedule.
SkyWest said this week that it “continues to see operational impacts due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, quarantines, and additional staffing challenges exacerbated by winter weather.”
In their official statement they also discussed reducing their flight load to handle these recent challenges, “We’ve been working with each of our major partners to proactively reduce our January schedules for the remainder of the month to ensure we’re able to adequately staff our remaining flying as we work to recover in the coming weeks.”
Despite the frequent cancellations from Alaska Airlines and their regional carriers, the company that has been hit the hardest these past few weeks has been Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic carrier. On Thursday, they canceled more than 650 of their flights, which made up 19% of their schedule for the day — this equals out to be 1 out of 5 flights canceled!
Southwest Airlines Hit the Hardest
Dan Landson, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines said the airline continues to be challenged by recent bad weather on the east coast, but also by an uptick in Covid-19 sick calls due to a spike in infections and requirements for close contacts to also quarantine.
On a single day last week, 600 Southwest pilots called out sick, half of them due to Covid-19 contact tracing. Leaving the airline with few pilots, and even less options.
As airlines continue to struggle with typical winter weather and the added stress of the virus, travelers should be prepared to face unforeseen challenges , at least until the end of the month.
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