Jet Blue cuts flights December 30 through mid January, anticipating sick calls

This holiday season was expected to be a windfall for airlines as passengers got ready to fly and meet loved ones or visit holiday destinations. However, the omicron variant of COVID-19 plus a few winter storms and bad weather played spoilsport, leading to the cancellations and delays. So, one airline–Jet Blu had decided to make advance preparations to mitigate last minute issued by cutting flights in advance.

New York based Jet Blue airlines has cut over 1,280 flights from December 30 to mid January. In a note that was seen by CNBC three Jet Blue department leaders wrote to staff that the past week had been one of the “most difficult operating periods during the pandemic” for the airlines. The note also stated that the “exponential growth in Omicron cases” that were seen in a couple of days were at a level that nobody “could reasonably prepare for.”

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They also said that Jet Blu was planning to cancel flights so that they could get further ahead as they were expecting to see a huge increase in omicron cases. The airline had planned to cut flights to a level of less than 10 percent of its daily schedule.

According to FlightAware, a site that tracks cancellations, more than 1,000 flights were canceled across the nation. The reported figures of number and percentage of daily schedule were as follows:

Jet Blu—173 flights, about 17 percent
United Airlines—188 flights, about 8 percent
SkyWest—144 flights, about 6 percent
Alaska Airlines—95 flights about 14 percent.

Last week, Delta Airlines and Jet Blu had urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to change its guidance and recommend five days of isolation for breakthrough Covid cases. Other airlines also requested the CDC to do so, as they mentioned staff shortages and flight disruptions.

On Monday, CDC obliged and cut the isolation time from 10 days to five for those who had tested positive for COVID-19 but did not have any symptoms. After the new guidelines were recommended, Jet Blu updated its leave policies.

However, the shortened isolation period was criticized by the Association of Flight Attendants who called it a “wrong move for aviation” but they said that they were ready to work together in such a way that their workers remained protected.

The department heads, in their note to the staff, said that they were hopeful that staff would return earlier but they were also aware that omicron cases were “yet to peak” in the Northwest, a region where many of Jet Blu crew members were based.

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