In the latest air travel news, large numbers of flight cancellations over the Christmas holidays are continuing into the new year due to airline staffing problems and weather; the CDC’s rule change for COVID quarantines helps airlines put sidelined staff back to work; arguments flare up about whether the U.S. should require domestic air travelers to be vaccinated; United starts free in-flight text messaging; JetBlue makes some changes to its TrueBlue loyalty program; United and Delta make more cuts to their regional route networks; international route news from Japan’s ZIPAIR, Singapore Airlines, Delta and United; Reno-based Aha! Launches Palm Springs flights; Avelo Airlines joins TSA PreCheck; and ExpresSpa Group opens a new full-service health center at New York JFK.
Air travel in the U.S. and around the world ended 2021 in a huge mess, and the operational chaos now shows signs of continuing into the new year. U.S. carriers canceled hundreds of flights every day this week, starting just before Christmas Eve, leaving thousands of passengers stranded during the busiest travel time of the year; re-accommodating them within the next few days was often impossible because flights were mostly fully booked. Flyers trying to rebook their cancelled flights by phone were often faced with hours-long waits to speak to someone. The schedule disruptions were partly due to winter storms, especially in the western U.S., but were mostly due to the COVID omicron variant decimating the airlines’ labor forces — not just employees who tested positive for the virus, but also those who were exposed to it and had to go into quarantine.