JetBlue cuts flights through mid-January as Omicron rises

JetBlue Airways has canceled flights into mid-January as it contends with crew shortages due to the surging Omicron variant, the airline confirmed late Wednesday.

The New York-based airline said it has cut approximately 1,280 flights that were on its schedule through Jan. 13 — or about 10 percent of its planned capacity.

But the company also noted an expected uptick of Omicron cases in the Northeast that could further impact its flight crews in the coming days.

“We expect the number of COVID cases in the northeast – where most of our crewmembers are based – to continue to surge for the next week or two,” a JetBlue spokesperson said in a statement obtained by Reuters. “This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down.”

JetBlue’s stock was down slightly in premarket trading Thursday. Shares have declined nearly 2 percent so far this week.

The Omicron variant has disrupted flights across the US.
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Other US airlines have yet to detail changes to their January slate but the cuts to JetBlue’s schedule signal airlines are bracing for lengthy interruptions due to the Omicron surge.

Elsewhere, Ireland-based Ryanair recently slashed a third of its planned flights next month due to Omicron-related concerns, according to reports.

Top US airlines, including JetBlue, American and Delta, canceled thousands of flights over the past week because of staffing shortages and seasonal weather-related challenges.

JetBlue canceled another 173 flights slated for Thursday, or about 17 percent of its planned schedule. Another 50 flights are delayed.

In total, more than 1,000 flights within, into or out of the US have already been canceled on Thursday, according to FlightAware data.

Earlier this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened its recommended isolation time for individuals with asymptomatic COVID-19 cases to five days, down from its previous recommendation of 10 days.

The change followed lobbying from top firms, including Delta and JetBlue, who argued a reduced isolation benchmark for breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals was necessary as Omicron caused staffing challenges.