Canada’s WestJet Airlines will cancel 15% of scheduled flights in January because the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 has left the airline unable to fully staff its operations, the company said on Thursday.
The announcement from privately owned WestJet, headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, comes after a slew of North American flight cancellations due to surging coronavirus cases and brutally cold winter weather.
There are 181 West Jet staff currently off work due to COVID-19, a 35% increase in recent days, company spokesperson Morgan Bell said in an email.
WestJet was operating around 450 flights a day – meaning 68 daily departures face cancellation – and Bell said warm weather destinations, international and domestic flights will all be impacted.
“We could not have anticipated the rapid and unpredictable impact of the Omicron variant on our people and operations,coupled with prolonged frigid temperatures across Western Canada and global staffing shortages,” WestJet Chief Executive Harry Taylor said in a statement posted to the airline’s website.
West Jet said it will try to consolidate flights that will cause the least disruption, and notify travellers in advance.