JetBlue Is Cutting More Than 1,000 Flights, Starting Today
These planned flights will be dropped throughout the first month of the year.
Travel experts had been warning for months that the 2021 holiday season would be hectic, given an expected increase in demand for air travel. But a new COVID variant has brought even more chaos into the mix. Millions of passengers traveling from Christmas trips or heading to New Year's destinations have been stranded in airports over the last week, as almost all U.S. airlines have had to cancel flights because staff members are calling in sick with the Omicron variant. More than 1,000 flights within, into, or out of the U.S. were canceled on Dec. 29, and even more have already been canceled Dec. 30, according to FlightAware. And now, one airline is planning to cut more than 1,000 flights, starting today. Read on to find out why JetBlue is dropping so many flights over the next month.
JetBlue is cutting thousands of flights starting at the end of December.
Another U.S. airline is gearing up to drop flights. A spokesperson for JetBlue Airways told Reuters that the airline will cut around 1,280 flights from its schedule starting Dec. 30. The airline will continue to reduce its lineup by dropping flights through Jan. 13, but it has not confirmed which planned flights are being clipped.
FlightAware data indicates that JetBlue has already canceled 175 flights by midday on Dec. 30. But by the time all the planned cancellations occur throughout the month of January, they will account for nearly 10 percent of JetBlue's daily schedules, according to CNBC.
The airline is dropping flights because of the Omicron variant.
Thousands of flights have been canceled last minute in the last week because a surge in Omicron infections has made it difficult for U.S. airlines to retain crews. Three JetBlue department leaders told employees that their choice to cancel flights preemptively was in order "to get even further ahead of the expected increase in Omicron cases," CNBC reported.
"This past week has been one of our most difficult operating periods during the pandemic," three JetBlue department leaders wrote in a Dec. 28 note to staff, which was seen by CNBC. "The exponential growth in Omicron cases over just a couple of days is at a level that no one could reasonably prepare for."
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JetBlue said even more cancellations could be on the horizon.
While JetBlue has planned for about 1,280 flight cuts through Jan. 13, there is a high chance that this won't be the total number of flights it will have to cancel in the coming weeks. In their note to staff, JetBlue officials said that Omicron cases have yet to peak in Northeast, which is where most of its crew members are based.
"We expect the number of COVID cases in the Northeast—where most of our crew members are based—to continue to surge for the next week or two," a JetBlue spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters. "This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down."
This airline had previously urged the CDC to reconsider isolation guidelines.
Alongside Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes had also written a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Dec. 22, asking the agency to reconsider isolation guidelines to lessen the number of crew members having to call out sick.
"Today, the vast majority of JetBlue's Crewmembers are vaccinated and like so many others are being relied upon by the American public for providing the essential service of travel," Hayes wrote. "Healthcare workers, first responders, airline professionals and many other essential employees across the economy who are fully vaccinated may no longer need a full 10-day isolation."
On Dec. 27, the CDC did end up revising its guidelines, stating that fully vaccinated individuals only have to isolate for five days, as long as they do not have any symptoms. JetBlue has already updated its leave policies to reflect the new guidance, according to CNBC. The airline said it is hopeful that the new guidelines will help bring back staff faster, but the continuous surge of Omicron cases in the Northeast might disrupt any major progress.