Both United and Delta Airlines announced Thursday that an increase of COVID-19 infections had forced them to cancel hundreds of Christmas Eve flights.
The cancellations came as the Transportation Safety Administration reported that Christmas traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels.
“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” a United Airlines spokesperson told CBS News in a statement. “As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport.”
The airline currently plans to cancel 120 flights on Friday. A spokesman for Delta Air Lines told CBS News that the airline would cancel 90 flights on Friday.
“Delta teams have exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying — before canceling around 90 flights for Friday,” the airline said in a statement.
Both airlines issued public statements expressing regret for the delays.
According to the Associated Press, Lufthansa announced Friday that it would cancel 12 transatlantic flights during the Christmas holiday season due to a “massive rise” in pilot sickouts. Houston, Boston, and Washington were among the destinations.
Although Lufthansa had provided for a “huge buffer” of extra workers for the period, the flights still had to be canceled.
The airline couldn’t say if COVID-19 infections or quarantines caused the sickouts because it didn’t know which illnesses were involved. Other flights had been scheduled for the passengers.
American and Southwest Airlines have reported no flight cancelations due to COVID-19 staffing issues.
The cancellations by United and Delta come when millions of people are anticipated to travel over the Christmas holiday.
On Wednesday, TSA agents inspected more than 2 million people, topping the number of travelers on that day last year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those wanting to travel should be completely vaccinated against COVID-19. People should avoid crowded and poorly ventilated places in public indoor settings and wear a face mask.