Omicron Forces Alaska Airlines To Cut 10% Of January Flights

Alaska Airlines has revealed it will be cutting its flight schedule by 10%. The airline becomes the latest to react to the fast-spreading Omicron COVID-19 variant, which is causing issues with staff availability at airlines, particularly in the United States.

Alaska Airlines, Boeing 737 MAX, Orca Livery
Alaska Airlines has cut 10% of its January schedule. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Things seemed to be going so well for airlines in the US. Following the dark days of April 2020, the sector was able to recover reasonably quickly, aided in part by the number of domestic flights operated by US carriers given the country’s size. Now, the airlines are facing headwinds again as the latest variant of the virus spreads across the nation.

Alaska cuts its flight schedule

Yesterday, Alaska Airlines revealed that it would become the latest airline to slash its flight schedule in the wake of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. The airline announced that 10% of its planned January schedule had been canceled.

The airline said that it could not meet its planned schedule due to unprecedented levels of sick leave as people call in with the virus. Planes can’t be operated without a crew, after all.

Emirates, Boeing 777, Nigeria
The rapid rise of Omicron has caused high numbers of staff to call in sick. Photo: Getty Images

Alaska Airlines is proactively canceling flights instead of keeping them scheduled in the hope that they still operate and then letting passengers down at the last minute. This tactic also means that Alaska can target the staff it predicts will be available to its highest-demand routes rather than canceling random flights on the day.

Commenting on its actions, Alaska Airlines said,

“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… We will learn from these challenges, improve where we must and deliver on our promise to deliver nonstop care each and every day.”

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Many airlines canceling flights

Alaska Airlines isn’t the only airline canceling flights due to the Omicron variant. Just yesterday, the airline’s northern neighbor, Canada’s Air Transat, revealed that it would be cutting 30% of its schedule for the remainder of winter 2022.

Air Transat Airbus A321-211 C-GTCY
Air Transat has also been forced to trim its schedule. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Just four days ago, another Canadian carrier, WestJet, revealed that it would also be cutting flights. Due to staff shortages, the airline has trimmed 15% of its January flights.

It seems as though the cancelations are here to stay for the time being. Omicron remains the dominant variant worldwide, and while data suggests that it is not as severe as previous variants, it appears to spread far quicker. Airlines and passengers will likely have to wait until its spread dies off slightly, either through herd immunity, continued vaccinations, or as the summer months approach.

Have you found yourself on a flight canceled by the Omicron variant? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!