Winter weather is always a bit challenging for commercial airlines. Fortunately, air traffic controllers and pilots are typically able to work together to find the safest path for passengers to reach their destinations except in the most aggressive conditions. This year is a little different, largely thanks to the omicron variant of the coronavirus. So let’s look at why Omicron is canceling flights?
We still don’t know a lot about omicron, but the existing data does point to a troubling trend. Studies show that omicron is much more easily transmitted among fully vaccinated adults. At this time, data suggests that omicron is between 2.7 and 3.7 times more infectious than the delta variant among vaccinated populations. By contrast, the variants were similarly infectious among unvaccinated populations.
To put that in layman’s terms, vaccines continue to protect vaccinated individuals against serious illness and hospitalization. However, vaccines are less effective at preventing the transmission of omicron, reducing the “herd immunity” protection provided to unvaccinated groups. In real time that means COVID has to be taken more seriously than ever to prevent the spread of the virus to the vulnerable and unvaccinated, causing a lot of issues for airlines.
The biggest problem with a highly transmissible variant that circumvents specific immune functions is that a lot of people are getting sick. On January 3, 2022 the United States broke international records. Over one million new coronavirus cases reported in a single day. The airlines have not proven spared by this trend. And there’s a real risk that the increased volume of cases is more likely to create new, potentially more dangerous variants.
Several major United States airlines have been clear on this point. They stated cancellations have mostly resulted from staffing shortages caused by COVID-related sick calls. Given the close quarters and recirculated air, it isn’t surprising that the airlines have high percentages of illness. Still, the lack of preparation for omicron has led to many more cancellations than American patrons would expect.
Depending on the airline as few as 3% or as many as 21% of flights were canceled per day in late December. On the low end, American Airlines canceled just 86 flights on December 27th. Similar numbers were seen with other airlines traveling primarily within the continental United States. By contrast, Alaskan Airlines canceled 144 flights that day, amounting to 21% of scheduled flights. In this case and many others, weather considerations on top of staff shortages contributed to the volume of cancellations.
The truth is that flying during a pandemic will be a challenge. Fortunately, there are many steps we can take to reduce the risk assumed by airline employees while also improving the airline’s ability to function predictably.
It’s uncomfortable, and we all hate it. It’s imperfect, and it cannot offer total protection. However, it does help to stop the spread of the virus. If your flight is more than 30 minutes, you should strongly consider wearing a surgical mask or an N95 mask for better long-term coverage.
Being in an enclosed space with several hundred people is far from ideal from an epidemiological perspective. That is why it is so important to follow social distancing guidelines whenever possible.
If you have comorbidities or other factors that could increase your risk, you should consider wearing gloves the entire time you’re traveling. Bring a box. Change them frequently, and wipe down everything you’ve touched every time you do.
You need COVID testing for travel abroad in Los Angeles. This step doesn’t protect you, but it does protect everyone else. Fortunately, Path MD offers a rapid Beverly Hills coronavirus test, allowing you to easily get your negative result and quarantine for a much shorter period of time prior to your flight.
Ultimately, the only way we can make travel and events predictable again is to do everything we can to keep our communities safe.