Jan. 13, 2022 - United Airlines is responding to the surge in COVID cases by cutting an unspecified number of flights to "make sure we have the staffing and resources to take care of our customers," company CEO Scott Kirby said in a memo to employees, USA Today reported.

Kirby said 3,000 of the airline’s employees in the United States – about 4.5% of the workforce – have tested positive for COVID. During the holiday travel rush, about a third of United employees in Newark, N.J., called in sick on a single day. Newark Liberty International is one of United’s hubs.

“Our frontline teams continue to put in a tremendous effort during what I know is an incredibly challenging and stressful time – the omicron surge has put a strain on our operation, resulting in customer disruptions during a busy holiday season,” Kirby said in the memo, according to USA Today.

Flight tracker FlightAware said United canceled 149 flights on Tuesday, the most of any major U.S. airline.

In December, JetBlue cut about 1,300 flights through mid-January because of a high number of workers calling in sick.

"Like many businesses and organizations, we have seen a surge in the number of sick calls from Omicron," JetBlue said in a statement to USA Today. "To give our customers give as much notice possible to make alternate plans and reaccommodate them on other flights, we are proactively reducing our schedule through January 13."

Alaska Airlines also cut flights because of employees calling in sick.

Southwest Airlines is also reacting to a high number of sick employees.

The airlines pilots’ union said 600 pilots were out sick on one day earlier this month. Southwest canceled 143 flights on Tuesday, USA Today said.

Southwest sent a memo to employees saying the company’s contact tracing program will end and that the airline is reducing the isolation period for workers who test positive to five from 10 days, USA Today reported. The shortening of the isolation period reflects guidance from the CDC.

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USA Today: “United Airlines says 3,000 employees COVID positive, plans more flight cuts”
USA Today: “JetBlue 'proactively' cancels nearly 1,300 flights into mid-January as sick calls surge from omicron”
 

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