(AP) — Airlines canceled hundreds more flights Sunday, citing staffing problems tied to COVID-19, as the nation’s travel woes extended beyond Christmas, with no clear indication when normal schedules would resume.
More than 700 flights entering, leaving or flying within the U.S. were called off, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. That figure was down from nearly 1,000 on Saturday. More than 50 flights were already canceled for Monday.
Delta, United, and JetBlue have blamed the omicron variant of the coronavirus for staffing shortages that forced cancellations.
“This was unexpected,” United spokesperson Maddie King said of omicron’s impact on staffing.
Globally, airlines scrapped about 2,200 flights as of Sunday morning, down from more than 2,800 from the day before, FlightAware’s data showed. The site does not say why flights are canceled
JetBlue scrapped 10% of its flights Sunday. Delta canceled 5% and United canceled 4%, according to FlightAware. The three airlines canceled more than 10% of their scheduled flights on Saturday.
American Airlines spokesperson Derek Walls said the Christmas cancellations stemmed from virus-related sick calls.
In other pandemic developments, the nation’s second Christmas in the shadow of COVID-19 sharply lifted holiday sales, which rose at the fastest pace in 17 years, even as shoppers grappled with higher prices, product shortages, and the omicron variant in the last few weeks of the season, according to one spending measure.
Mastercard Spending Pulse, which tracks all kinds of payments including cash and debit cards, reported Sunday that holiday sales had risen 8.5% from a year earlier. Mastercard SpendingPulse had expected a 7.4% increase.
The results, which covered Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, were fueled by purchases of clothing and jewelry. Holiday sales were up 10.7% compared with the pre-pandemic 2019 holiday period.
Also Sunday, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor acknowledged that he was…