Alaska Air trims January flights to cope with virus outbreak

Airlines are responding to high sickout numbers during the pandemic by trimming their schedules

Alaska Airlines said Thursday it will trim its schedule by about 10% for the rest of January as it deals with “unprecedented” numbers of employees calling in sick during the current COVID-19 surge.

The move by Alaska is similar to a decision last week by JetBlue Airways to cut about 1,300 flights through mid-January.

Southwest continued to be the hardest hit among U.S. airlines, canceling about 650 flights, or 21% of its schedule for Thursday by early evening. A spokesman said the airline was dealing with extreme cold at several airports and a high number of call-outs by employees who were either sick with COVID-19 or were isolating after close contact with someone with the virus.

Alaska had scrubbed about 125, or 17% of its flights.

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.” Alaska said reducing flights through the end of January “will give us the flexibility and capacity needed to reset.”