Flight cancellations have marred thousands of people's holiday travel plans. With the New Year around the corner and omicron still raging, the public is anxious. Flying over the holidays can be stressful. Flying during the surge of a highly contagious virus brings its own unique challenges.
Omicron is the dominant variant, making up more than 73% of all new COVID-19 cases - and it’s hit the airline industry hard. More than 2,000 flights were canceled since Christmas eve.
CNBC’s airline reporter Leslie Josephs said cancellations are likely to continue for a few more days but will start to look better into the New Year. Airlines attribute inclement weather and a surge in COVID-19 cases within their companies.
“A variety of airlines – United Airlines, Delta Airlines, American, Alaska, Jet Blue – have all cited this rise of omicron, which has driven up cases around the country hitting their flight crews,” said Josephs. “And that means that they don’t have enough pilots or flight attendants to work certain flights.”
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She said the solution isn’t clear-cut, as the virus is unpredictable. But companies are trying to mitigate the issue.
“The airlines pretty much throw money at the problem and offer pilots double pay,” Josephs said. “Flight attendants in some cases are getting double pay up to triple pay to pick up those open trips so they can get covered.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci recently weighed in on whether a vaccine mandate should be considered for domestic flights.
“When you make vaccination a requirement that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated. If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered,” Fauci said.
Josephs said that kind of measure is not likely to happen without pushback from airlines, which would bear the responsibility for checking vaccination cards. The administration has considered a domestic vaccination requirement, or one requiring either vaccination or proof of negative test, but Biden’s science advisers have yet to formally make the recommendation.
“This isn’t something that you are likely to suddenly hear about,” Josephs said. “If they were even to do it, we would have several weeks likely of notice before that would happen.”
Ultimately, she says flexibility on the part of travelers and airlines is key.
Per the U.S. Department of Transportation, travelers are entitled to a cash refund if a flight is canceled, regardless of the reason. For additional information visit https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/refunds.