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JetBlue 'proactively' cancels nearly 1,300 flights into mid-January as sick calls surge from omicron

Eve Chen
USA TODAY

It's still December, but JetBlue already "proactively" canceled nearly 1,300 flights into the new year due to COVID-related staffing challenges. But rest assured, even more cancellations could be coming.

"Like many businesses and organizations, we have seen a surge in the number of sick calls from Omicron," JetBlue said in a statement to USA TODAY. "To give our customers give as much notice possible to make alternate plans and reaccommodate them on other flights, we are proactively reducing our schedule through January 13."

Roughly 1,280 JetBlue flights have been canceled over the next two weeks. The airline said, "there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down."

Travelers across multiple airlines have struggled all week with flight disruptions driven by both COVID-related staffing struggles and winter storms. Since Christmas Eve, more than 8,400 flights have been canceled and more than 45,000 have been delayed within, to and from the U.S., according to FlightAware, which tracks flight status in real time.

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A JetBlue Airlines plane is seen at a gate at Salt Lake City International Airport on October 8, 2020.

"While the new CDC guidelines should help get crewmembers back to work sooner, and our schedule reduction and other efforts will further ease day-of cancellations, we expect the number of COVID cases in the northeast – where most of our crewmembers are based – to continue to surge for the next week or two," JetBlue said. 

The CDC's new guidelines allow for people who either test positive for COVID or have been exposed to COVID to end isolation or quaratine after five days, instead of the previously recommended 10, provided they continue to wear face masks for five more days around others.

JetBlue noted it started the holiday season with its highest staffing levels so far in the pandemic and has used all available resources to help with staffing, including having managers and other leaders staff frontline operations where possible.

The airline suggests customers check flight status on their website

Customers who want or need to change flights can do so free of charge for all flights through Jan. 31. The airline has waived its usual change and cancellation fees for Blue Basic fares. Other JetBlue fares don't have such fees.