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JetBlue cancels 1,280 flights through mid-January due to expected Covid spike

The virus's continued spread has affected thousands of people this holiday season.

JetBlue Airways will cancel about 1,280 flights through mid-January in expectation of continued Covid-19 outbreaks brought on by the omicron variant, the airline said Thursday.

The cutbacks target scheduled flights from Thursday to Jan. 13, CNBC reported.

JetBlue, North America's sixth-largest carrier, is based in New York City, where the number of cases is radically spiking — although hospitalizations are climbing at a slightly less alarming rate.

The airline said Wednesday that it would be "proactively reducing" its schedule through Jan. 13 "to give our customers ... as much notice [as] possible." The statement didn't specify exactly how many flights would be scuttled.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that people who test positive but have no symptoms should isolate for five days, down from the previous recommendation of 10.

The adjustment should slightly help staffing levels, but it won't be enough to offset the greater Covid-19 spike, JetBlue said.

"While the new CDC guidelines should help get crew members back to work sooner, and our schedule reduction and other efforts will further ease day-of cancellations, we expect the number of Covid cases in the northeast — where most of our crew members are based — to continue to surge for the next week or two," it said Wednesday.

"This means there is a high likelihood of additional cancellations until case counts start to come down," it said.

There were 83 JetBlue flights canceled on Wednesday and more on Thursday, with some frustrated passengers saying they waited on hold for up to five hours without an airline agent’s picking up the phone.

JetBlue is far from alone in the mass cancellation of flights. Delta Air Lines expected Thursday to pull the plug on about 250 flights and then 200 to 300 more this weekend.

"We apologize to customers for the impact all of this is having on their travel plans," the airline said in a statement. "Delta people are continuing to work together around the clock to reroute and substitute aircraft and crews to get customers where they need to be as quickly and safely as possible."

And United Airlines said it was forced to call off 180 flights Thursday because of weather and Covid outbreaks. 

The busy holiday travel season has been plagued by canceled flights throughout the U.S. and the world as airlines struggle with staffing shortages trigged by increases in Covid-19 cases.

At least 2,863 flights had been canceled worldwide by 5 p.m. ET Thursday, 1,128 of them involving U.S.-bound or -based journeys, according to the tracking service FlightAware.