For day three, COVID-19 blocks Americans’ vacation travel


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By Humeyra Pamuk and Gabriella Borter

WASHINGTON / NEW YORK (Reuters) – US airlines canceled more than 1,300 flights on Sunday as COVID-19 reduced the number of available crews, while several cruise ships had to cancel stopovers after outbreaks on board , upsetting the plans of thousands of Christmas travelers.

Commercial airlines had canceled 1,318 flights within, to or from the United States by mid-afternoon, according to a count on flight tracking site FlightAware.com.

At least three cruise ships have also been forced to return to port without making scheduled stops after COVID-19 cases were detected on board, according to several media.

It was the third day in a row of pain for some Americans traveling on weekends as the Christmas holidays, typically a peak travel time, coincided with a rapid spread of the Omicron variant nationwide.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease official, warned of the increase in cases in the United States in the coming days and the risk of “overwhelming … hospitals, especially in areas where you have a higher proportion of unvaccinated people ”.

“It will likely go much higher,” he said of the surge caused by Omicron even as President Joe Biden last week unveiled new actions aimed at containing the latest wave and continued to urge vaccinations and other prevention strategies.

With the rise in infections, airlines have been forced to cancel flights with pilots and cabin crew requiring quarantine as bad weather in some areas added to the woes of travelers.

Enjoli Rodriguez, 25, whose Delta Air Lines Inc flight from Los Angeles to Lexington, Ky., Was canceled on Christmas Eve, was among thousands still stranded on Sunday.

Delta booked Rodriguez through Detroit, but that flight was delayed and therefore missed the connection.

Speaking from Detroit Airport on Sunday, Rodriguez said she was surrounded by angry passengers, angry airline officials and families with young children in limbo.

“I have met a lot of people who share their horror stories here. We’re all stuck in Michigan, Detroit, heading to different places, ”Rodriguez, who was booked for a subsequent flight to Kentucky, told Reuters.

A total of 997 flights were deleted on Christmas Day and nearly 700 on Christmas Eve. Thousands more were delayed over the three days.

A Delta Airlines spokesperson said “winter conditions in parts of the United States and the Omicron variant continued to impact” its holiday weekend flight schedule, but it was working to “reroute and replace planes and crews”.

United Airlines also said it was working on rebooking the affected passengers, while a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said its cancellations were all weather related.

Overall, the most affected US airports were Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and JFK International in New York.

A White House official, who asked not to be named, said the administration was closely monitoring delays, but noted that while they may disrupt plans, “only a small percentage of flights are affected. “.

Delta canceled 167 flights on Sunday, or 6%; United canceled 115 flights or 5% and American canceled 83 flights or 2%, according to FlightAware.

Worldwide, 3,023 flights were canceled and more than 13,742 were delayed as of 8:15 p.m. EST (0015 GMT Monday) on Sunday, according to data from FlightAware.

COVID HITS CRUISES

Meanwhile, a Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd cruise ship returned to Fort. Lauderdale, CNN reported, and on Sunday a Carnival Corp ship returned to Miami after COVID was detected on board, although it was not clear whether it was Omicron.

Carnival said “a small number on board have been isolated due to a positive COVID test” aboard its ship Carnival Freedom, which again departed Miami later Sunday for its next trip with another round of passengers. .

“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant may shape how some destination authorities with limited medical resources can see even a small number of cases, even when managed with our rigorous protocols. If it becomes necessary to cancel a port, we will do our best to find an alternative destination, ”he said in a statement.

A Holland America ship also returned to San Diego on Sunday after Mexican authorities banned it from docking in Puerto Vallarta citing cases on board, NBC News and Fox News reported. Carnival, owner of Holland America, did not address this reported incident in its statement.

Representatives for Royal Caribbean did not respond to a request for comment.

Overall, the COVID-19 outbreaks have altered at least six starts over the past week, the Washington Post reported, echoing the turbulence the industry is facing after the COVID outbreak in early 2020 .

Testing issues compounded travel angst as many Americans rushed for their status amid long lines and lack of home testing kits in the midst of vacation travel.

“We obviously have to do better. I mean, I think things will improve a lot as January approaches, but that doesn’t help us today and tomorrow, ”Fauci told ABC’s“ This Week ”.

Meanwhile, some states are already bracing for the upcoming New Year’s holiday weekend, warning residents to reduce potential exposure to the virus.

“Omicron is booming statewide,” the Louisiana Health Department tweeted on Sunday, noting that Omicron-related hospitalizations had doubled in the past week. “We urge everyone to take safety precautions before New Years Eve.”

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Gabriella Borter; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Diane Bartz and Karen Brettell; additional writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kieran Murray, Daniel Wallis, Mark Porter and Diane Craft)

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