Business travel

Carriers cut winter schedules after holiday cancellations

The flight cancellations that have plagued the airline industry over the recent Christmas and New Year holidays have diminished but not completely diminished.

On Jan. 10, 903 US-related flights — within, to or from the United States — were canceled, according to flight tracker FlightAware. On January 11, 738 were canceled. Around 5 p.m., 529 were on January 12. Cancellations for Thursday and Friday were already 276 and 121, respectively, and climbing.

Globally, 3,419 flights were canceled on Tuesday and 2,781 on Wednesday, early evening.

Several airlines continue to blame bad weather and staff shortages triggered in part by Covid-19 for the cancellations – even with new guidelines issued in late December by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reduced the time recommended isolation period for asymptomatic people infected with Covid -19 from 10 days to five.

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United Airlines was particularly hard hit. It was the US carrier with the most canceled flights for Jan. 11 and was set to repeat Jan. 12 by early Wednesday evening. About 3,000 employees currently test positive for Covid-19, according to a letter sent to employees by United CEO Scott Kirby on January 10.

“On a single day in Newark, nearly a third of our workforce fell ill,” Kirby wrote.

Schedule reductions

To counter the need to cut flights, United has reduced upcoming schedules. “We are reducing our short-term hours to ensure we have the staff and resources to take care of customers,” Kirby continued.

Indeed, as of January 7, United had 95,331 flights scheduled for the month of January, down 42% from the October 1, 2021, scheduled flight schedule for January according to data from the global analytics firm. Cirium aviation.

United is not the only carrier to cut its schedules. January flight numbers for the four largest U.S. carriers, plus JetBlue and Alaska Airlines, are down a third from January schedules scheduled for Oct. 1. So far, American Airlines has cut its schedule by 38% from October plans; Delta Air Lines by 28%. Current schedule reductions for the same six airlines for the remainder of the winter over the same comparative period are so far less severe, at 18% in February and 16% in March.

Alaska Airlines announced on January 6 that it would reduce departures through the end of January by 10%. This does not take into account any cuts made previously. “We need to rebuild more reliability in our operations as we deal with omicron impacts,” according to an Alaska statement.

In addition to cutting schedules, New York-based JetBlue will cut 17 routes this spring, as The Points Guy first reported. These services were underperforming or will be moved to a seasonal schedule, according to the airline. About 65% of affected routes were destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the rest affecting US city pairs, including flights from Bozeman, Fort Myers and Tampa.

International effect

The need to reduce schedules is also hitting international airlines. German carrier Lufthansa planned to cut 33,000 flights, or around 10% of its flight plan, from its winter schedule due to the spread of the omicron variant, according to reports in late December. British Airways is cutting service to three US cities – Baltimore, Nashville and New Orleans – at least until the summer.

In addition, China has in recent weeks ordered the cancellation of more than two dozen scheduled flights from the United States following passengers testing positive for Covid-19 after arriving in the country, according to Reuters.

In late December, Delta diverted a flight flying from Seattle to Shanghai due to a change in cleaning rules at the Chinese airport. According to Simple Flying, schedule changes posted online last weekend showed Delta withdrew nonstop service to China through the end of October, including that twice-weekly flight between Seattle and Shanghai, as well as bi-weekly service between Detroit and Shanghai. Both flights will now include a stopover in Seoul.

During a Jan. 12 appearance on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street, Cowen’s senior research analyst Helane Becker said airlines are coming out of 2021 “pretty strong,” barring flight cancellations. late December due to a combination of weather and staff shortages. , which continued.

“January will be a tough month,” she said. “The first six weeks of the year will be tough, and we don’t have business travel coming back. We don’t see it returning to pre-pandemic levels at all.”