Alaska Airlines Reduces January Schedule, Citing Omicron 

The carrier said it is unable to maintain its planned schedule because of high levels of infected staff.

Credit: Joe Pries

Alaska Airlines said it is “resetting for the new year” by slashing its January departures 10%, a move necessitated by the surge in COVID-19 cases in the US that have wreaked havoc with airline staffing and schedules.

Seattle-based Alaska said it is facing “unprecedented employee sick calls” that have rendered it unable to operate “reliably.” The oneworld carrier apologized “for the considerable inconvenience” for passengers. The airline said it is “working hard to return to the level of service [passengers] know and expect from us.”

Alaska’s schedule cut comes as airlines across the US contend with the omicron variant of COVID-19, which is putting pressure on carriers already lacking sufficient staffing levels in the aftermath of significantly reduced flying through much of the pandemic. On Jan. 3, more than 3,000 flights were canceled across the country.

Alaska said it needs “to build more reliability back into our operation as we deal with the impacts of omicron and during a time when [passengers] generally fly less.”

This 10% reduction in flights “will give us the flexibility and capacity needed to reset,” the airline said, adding: “This will also give us time and space to find our path forward together, with COVID-19 as a continued reality in our business and our world.”

Alaska had been showing relatively strong momentum in the second half of 2021. During the third quarter it operated 82% of its pre-pandemic capacity while returning to profitability.

Alaska has been planning to operate a full pre-pandemic schedule by the 2022 summer.