United Airlines is curtailing flights amid Kovid

In a new company-wide memo, CEO Scott Kirby said the airline is “shortening our near-term schedules to ensure we have the staff and resources to take care of customers.”

Kirby did not specify how many flights the airline was reducing. But the memo states that “the Omicron boom has put pressure on our operations, resulting in customer disruptions during the busy holiday season.” He thanked the employees for their professionalism in handling the delays.

United is hardly alone in dealing with delayed and canceled flights. JetBlue Airways recently cut about 1,280 flights, nearly 10% of its schedule, from January 6 to January 13, as an increasing number of crew members were falling ill.
Airlines have been canceling hundreds of flights every day since Christmas Eve as they grapple with staff shortages due to the COVID-19 infection and inclement weather in some parts of the country. JetBlue is based in New York City, which is grappling with a record-high number of positive cases.
In the memo, Kirby said, “I also know that Omicron has affected the personal well-being of our United team. We have approximately 3,000 employees who are currently positive for COVID.” One day in Newark, about a third of JetBlue employees reported sick, he said.

Covid-19 hospitalizations record high, HHS data show

According to the memo, some 3,000 United employees are currently positive for Covid, but none of the company’s vaccinated employees are hospitalized. Kirby said hospitalization rates among United employees have dropped since the company’s vaccine mandate was effective “100 times less than in the general US population.”

Earlier, more than one joint worker per week was dying of covid. Recently, the company has been running for eight consecutive weeks and there have been no deaths among its immunization staff, he said.

– An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the company with 3,000 sick staff members. United Airlines said that about 3,000 employees are currently infected with Kovid.

—Jordan Valinsky and Reuters contributed to this story.

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