Airline Aeroplane

Thousands of flights were cancelled around the world over the Christmas holidays as the highly transferable Omicron variant wreaked havoc on airlines, especially in the United States.

According to the FlightAware tracking website, more than 2300 commercial flights were cancelled, around 800 of them in the US on December 25. A similar number of flights were axed a day before.

German carrier Lufthansa announced before Christmas that it would have to cancel a dozen long-haul flights between December 23 and 26 because so many pilots had called in sick.

A spokesperson told German news agency DPA that the number of axed flights had not increased.

In addition to a connection to Tokyo, the affected Lufthansa flights are mainly to and from US destinations.

The German carrier said it would not speculate on what role Omicron played, as it was not informed about the nature of the employee illnesses.

FlightAware also showed hundreds of cancelled flights around the world for Boxing Day today.

US media reported that airlines had been hit by a shortage of healthy staff amid a spike in Covid-19 infections fuelled by the Omicron strain.

A spokesman for Delta Air Lines told the New York Times that “a combination of issues, including weather and Omicron-related issues,” were to blame. United Airlines cited crew illnesses as the main cause of flight disruptions.

Passengers took to Twitter to express their frustration and disappointment. “I’m going to miss Christmas with my family!” one man wrote. “You cancelled my direct flight on Christmas Eve,” another passenger tweeted an airline.

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