Delta Air Lines Just Issued This Major Warning About Flights This Month
The company says there could be some difficulties in the coming weeks.
By all measures, this year's holiday season is shaping up to be a busy one for travel. Data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shows that 2,098,540 passengers passed through checkpoints on Dec. 20, up from 954,782 on the same day last year. Amid the rush, airlines have struggled to meet the returning demand for seats on their planes as unexpected cancelations and route changes have affected thousands of passengers. Now, Delta Air Lines is warning that there may be another issue with its flights this month. Read on to see what you can expect if you're planning on taking off.
Delta Air Lines is warning that staffing shortages could "significantly impact" their flights and operations.
In a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, on Dec. 21, Delta executives warned that the airline's flights might be impacted by an expected shift in the pandemic's trajectory, travel news outlet The Points Guy reported. They expressed concern that the agency's current guidelines could leave the company without enough employees to keep operations running smoothly.
"With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the 10-day isolation window for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operations," the letter said. "Similar to healthcare, police, fire, and public transportation workforces, the Omicron surge may exacerbate shortages and create significant disruptions."
Delta asked the CDC to alter its guidelines on how long employees who test positive for COVID must isolate.
The letter, which was signed by multiple executives—including CEO Ed Bastian and Carlos Del Rio, MD, the airline's medical advisor—asked the CDC to reconsider the 10-day isolation guidelines it has in place that limit when someone who tests positive for COVID-19 can come back to work. Delta argues that the "guidance was developed in 2020 when the pandemic was in a different phase without effective vaccines and treatments." They also note that the Omicron variant appears to have a shorter incubation period and create less severe illness in vaccinated individuals, although the letter doesn't cite any specific studies or data.
Instead, the executives propose cutting the period in half to five days. "Individuals would be able to end isolation with an appropriate testing protocol," the letter reads. "As part of this policy change, we would be interested to partner with CDC and collect empirical data."
The airline argues its employees are uniquely equipped to handle the changes. "At Delta, over 90 percent of our workforce are fully vaccinated, and those rates are increasing daily," the letter says, adding that they're also subject to the strict mask mandates in place for passengers on flights and in airports. "Our employees represent an essential workforce to enable Americans who need to travel domestically and internationally."
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Dr. Fauci says the CDC is considering changing the guidelines for some essential employees.
Delta's request comes as Anthony Fauci, MD, chief COVID adviser to the White House, has publicly disclosed discussions within the CDC about possibly changing the guidelines for healthcare employees in light of the latest variant.
"If you get a healthcare worker who is infected and without any symptoms at all, you don't want to keep that person out of work too very long because, particularly if we get a run on hospital beds and the need for health care personnel, that's something that at least will be considered, at least considered," Fauci said during a Dec. 21 interview on CNN's New Day.
Delta has made other changes to its operations lately to meet post-pandemic demand.
Like other airlines, Delta has been making changes as it adjusts to travel amid COVID. On Dec. 12, the airline announced it would be dropping seven of its regularly operated flights in the coming weeks, travel news outlet The Points Guy first reported. The resulting changes will also mean that Grand Junction, Colorado; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Cody, Wyoming, will no longer be served by the airline, ending flights to the cities as of Jan. 9.
On Dec. 20, it was made public that the airline also took the axe to 10 different flight routes in the U.S. after a carrier spokesperson confirmed to The Points Guy that the flights have been dropped. Delta is no longer flying from Atlanta, Georgia, to Rochester, Minnesota, or from Boston, Massachusetts, to Bermuda. Three routes were dropped from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota as well, going to Lansing, Michigan; Freeland, Michigan; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Delta will also no longer operate flights to the following five cities from Salt Lake City, Utah: Cleveland, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Madison, Wisconsin; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"We continue to evaluate our network and make changes in line with customer demand, as we have throughout the pandemic," a Delta spokesperson told The Points Guy. However, most of the dropped routes have not operated since the start of the pandemic, according to Insider.