Alaska Airlines trims January flights to cope with virus outbreak

<p><p>From staff and wire reports</p></p><p><p>Alaska Airlines said Thursday it will trim its schedule by about 10% for the rest of January at it deals with “unprecedented” numbers of employees calling in sick during the current COVID-19 surge.</p></p><p><p>The move by Alaska is similar to a decision last week by JetBlue Airways to cut about 1,300 flights through mid-January.</p></p><p><p>Alaska Airlines, which operates several flights out of Spokane International Airport, delayed a few flights and canceled at least one Thursday.</p></p><p><p>Alaska’s announcement came on a day in which more than 1,800 U.S. flights were canceled by afternoon on the East Coast, according to FlightAware.</p></p><p><p>The tracking service said that equaled about 8% of the day’s scheduled flights, and it was the 12th straight day of 1,000-plus cancellations, which airlines blamed on the virus surge and winter weather.</p></p><p><p>Worldwide, airlines had canceled about 4,300 flights.</p></p><p><p>Southwest continued to be the hardest hit among U.S. airlines, canceling more than 575 flights, or 19% of its schedule for Thursday.</p></p><p><p>Alaska had scrubbed 120, or 17% of its flights.</p></p><p><p>The Seattle-based airline said in a statement that “the continued impacts of omicron have been disruptive in all our lives and unprecedented employee sick calls have impacted our ability to operate our airline reliably.”</p></p><p><p>Alaska said reducing flights through the end of January “will give us the flexibility and capacity needed to reset.”</p></p><p><p>U.S. cancellations began rising on Christmas Eve and peaked Monday at more than 3,200 – about one in every eight flights.</p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>Besides cutting flights, airlines including United and Spirit have offered bonus pay to find employees willing to work extra days.</span></p></p>