WestJet cancels 15% of flights amid Omicron COVID-19 staff shortage

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WestJet Airlines says it is being forced to cut 15 per cent of its flights through to the end of January as it deals with staffing shortages due to the Omicron variant.

The Calgary-based airline says it has seen a 35 per cent increase in active cases among staff in recent days, with 181 WestJet employees currently affected by COVID-19.

WestJet says it has seen a significant increase in flight delays and cancellations over the past 72 hours.

Read more:

Omicron COVID-19 variant disrupts holiday travel with over 6,000 flights cancelled

It says it can no longer predictably staff its scheduled flights.

WestJet says guests whose flights are cancelled or rescheduled by the airline will be eligible for a refund. Guests with impacted flights will be notified by the airline.

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The announcement comes as more than 850 flights were cancelled in the U.S. on Wednesday, according to data from the flight-tracking website FlightAware. There were nearly 1,300 cancellations for flights entering, leaving or inside the U.S. Tuesday, and about 1,500 on Monday.

Cancellations began to spike the day before Christmas during what is already a buzzing pace for airlines this time of year.

Delta, United and JetBlue have all said that the Omicron variant was causing enough staffing issues that flights were cancelled.

Read more:

JetBlue cuts 1,280 flights through mid-January due to Omicron staff shortages

Omicron has intensified already significant staffing issues for airlines, which winnowed workforces in 2020 as air travel collapsed, only to be broadsided when vaccination rates jumped and millions of people felt comfortable flying again this year.

That could translate to travel headaches for hundreds of thousands of people if cancellations maintain the current pace into the weekend. The Transportation Security Administration expects the Monday after New Year’s will be one of the busiest days of the holiday season.

According to TSA checkpoint data, the numbers of people flying this holiday season far exceeds last year, before COVID-19 vaccinations were available, but still trails 2019 traveler numbers.

With files from The Associated Press

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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