In this week’s air travel news, United Airlines plans to reduce flight operations due to staff shortages; Delta Air Lines claims schedules are back on track despite 8,000 workers testing positive for COVID-19, and customers granted travel credits for another year to use; JetBlue Airways will stop flying on 17 mostly recreational routes this spring, including San Francisco International Airport – Cancun; American Airlines is cutting frequencies on many domestic routes; Air Canada will suspend services to 15 Caribbean destinations; British Airways temporarily shoots down three US gates; Virgin Atlantic will start flights from London to Austin. Finnair is coming to Seattle; Singapore Airlines has big plans for service outside the New York area; US threatens to retaliate against China for closing trans-Pacific flights; Hong Kong bans transit passengers for a month; America begins code sharing with Aer Lingus; The United States adds Canada to its “do not travel” list; Southwest offers discounted COVID self-test kits to passengers; And two of the new European carriers are going ahead with plans to fly to the United States this year.
As US airlines struggle to maintain schedules as the workforce dwindles due to COVID cases and quarantines, United is providing numbers this week on how bad the staffing problem is. In a note to employees this week, United CEO Scott Kirby revealed that the airline is “reducing our schedules in the near term to make sure we have the staff and resources to take care of customers.” Kirby did not specify how deep the cuts would be. He said the airline currently has about 3,000 employees who have tested positive for COVID, or roughly 4% of its workforce. The situation varies by location. “Just as an example, in just one day in Newark, nearly a third of our workforce got sick,” Kirby said. He noted that the rapid spread of the omicron variant “has put a strain on our operations, leading to customer disruptions during the busy holiday season.” “While we do everything we can to avoid flight cancellations, we have worked to anticipate the impact by acting early to cancel flights when necessary and notifying affected customers in advance of their arrival at the airport.”