WestJet has become the last North American carrier to cancel flights due to rising COVID-19 cases among staff.
The Canadian carrier said on December 30, 2021 that it was cancelling some 15% of scheduled flights though to January 31, 2022 because of the impact on staffing of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The problems have been compounded by staffing shortages and adverse weather.
“Despite all contingency planning, in addition to hiring back thousands of WestJetters to safely support peak operations, we find ourselves no longer able to predictably resource our planned schedule due to Omicron impact and have made the difficult decision to consolidate approximately 15 percent of scheduled flights through to January 31, 2022,” Harry Taylor, interim chief executive said in a message posted on social media.
We have made the difficult decision to consolidate approximately 15 percent of scheduled flights through to Jan. 31, 2022, due to the accelerating impact of Omicron.— WestJet News (@WestJetNews) December 30, 2021
A message from Harry Taylor, WestJet, Interim President & CEO: https://t.co/QqdlVO8aBI
The rapid spread of Omicron has forced thousands of flight cancellations across North American carriers during the end of year holiday period, with weather conditions not helping matters. JetBlue (JBLU) is also cutting flights in January to reflect rising COVID-19 case numbers among staff that are disrupting its operations.
WestJet’s Taylor said the Canadian and regional governments needed to take action to minimize disruption.
“We are actively engaging with the federal and provincial governments in light of evolving scientific data available on the Omicron variant, as changes would aid us, along with our sector, in more effectively scheduling crew and employees, while maintaining essential air service for Canadian communities,” Taylor said.
Across the border in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduced the isolation time for asymptomatic people who test positive for COVID-19 following pressure from various industries, including airlines.
Airlines in Europe have also been cancelling flights in January because of Omicron. However, the cancellations from airlines such as Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) and Ryanair are down to Omicron hitting bookings, rather than the virus causing staff shortages.