Airlines canceled hundreds of additional flights on Sunday, citing staff issues related to COVID-19, as the country’s travel problems lingered beyond Christmas, with no clear indication of when normal hours would resume.
More than 700 flights entering, leaving or flying in the United States have been canceled, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. That figure was down from nearly 1,000 on Saturday. More than 50 flights have already been canceled for Monday.
Delta, United and JetBlue have blamed the omicron variant of the coronavirus for staff shortages that have forced cancellations.
“It was unexpected,” United spokeswoman Maddie King said of omicron’s impact on staff.
Worldwide, airlines cut about 2,200 flights Sunday morning, up from more than 2,800 the day before, according to FlightAware data. The site does not say why the flights are canceled.
JetBlue cut 10% of its flights on Sunday. Delta canceled 5% and United canceled 4%, according to FlightAware. The three airlines canceled more than 10% of their scheduled flights on Saturday.
American Airlines spokesman Derek Walls said the Christmas cancellations were the result of illness calls linked to the virus.
In other pandemic developments, the nation’s second Christmas in the shadow of COVID-19 sharply increased holiday sales, which grew at the fastest rate in 17 years, even as shoppers grappled with shoppers. higher prices, product shortages and the omicron variant in the final weeks of the season, according to a spending measure.
Mastercard Spending Pulse, which tracks all kinds of payments including cash and debit cards, reported on Sunday that holiday sales were up 8.5% from the previous year. Mastercard SpendingPulse had expected a 7.4% increase.
The results, which covered November 1 to December 24, were fueled by purchases of clothing and jewelry. Holiday sales increased 10.7% from the pre-pandemic 2019 holiday season.
Also on Sunday, the country’s top infectious disease doctor admitted he was frustrated with the limited supply of COVID-19 tests.
Demand for testing has increased amid the wave fueled by the omicron variant. “We obviously have to do better,” Dr Anthony Fauci said in an interview broadcast on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday.
“I think things are going to improve dramatically as January approaches, but that doesn’t help us today and tomorrow,” Fauci said.
Fauci said he was happy with the evidence that omicron causes less severe disease for most people. But he cautioned against complacency as the rapid spread of the disease could “reverse a real decrease in severity” as many more people could be infected.
Meanwhile in Europe, France recorded more than 100,000 viral infections in a single day for the first time in the pandemic. COVID-19-related hospitalizations have doubled in the past month as omicron complicates efforts by the French government to avoid a new lockdown.
More than one in 100 people in the Paris region tested positive last week, according to the regional health service. Most of the new infections are linked to omicron, which government experts say will be dominant in France in the coming days. Omicron is already dominant in Great Britain, across the Channel.
The total number of deaths in France is over 122,000.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government has scheduled emergency meetings on Monday to discuss next steps. Some scientists and educators have urged delaying going back to school after the holidays or suggesting reimposing a curfew.