Jan. 1—Hawaiian Airlines canceled 27 flights—22 neighbor island and five trans-Pacific flights—on Friday due to ongoing staffing shortages as more employees test positive for.
The local airline joins affected by staffing problems as the highly contagious omicron variant drives. By early Friday evening on the East Coast, more than 1, 550 U.S. flights—about 6 % of all scheduled flights—and roughly 3, 500 worldwide had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware.
Friday's 27 cancellations by Hawaiian Airlines represent nearly 13 % of its 210 daily systemwide flights. Customers affected by cancellations were put on other flights.
The company said 175 employees had tested positive and that 272 are self-isolating and monitoring for symptoms.
The numbers reflect active cases, not a count of new cases, according to Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Marissa Villegas. She said employees are considered COVID-19-positive until they are medically cleared to return to work.
"Ninety percent of our employees live in Hawaii and we are not immune to the local spread of the disease, " Villegas said in an email. "The vast majority of our employees are vaccinated and understand the importance of keeping our community safe."
On Thursday the airline canceled 24 flights, including 23 neighbor island flights and a trans-Pacific flight. Ten were canceled Wednesday.
"We are asking all employees who are sick or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to stay home, monitor their symptoms, and get tested before returning to work, " Villegas said. "We have also implemented strict health and safety measures at all of our work locations and have made ample testing and educational resources available to our employees to ensure they are supported throughout the pandemic."
Two other airlines that serve Hawaii have not been as affected by coronavirus infections.
Alaska Airlines, which has 34 daily flights to Hawaii, has had to cancel just about two or three of those flights per day since Sunday, but not because of the pandemic.
"Severe winter weather has disrupted our operation at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, our largest hub. This created a perfect storm with crew members and aircraft being displaced around the country, coupled with the continued impact of the omicron variant on our staffing levels, " said Daniel Chun, spokesman for Alaska Airlines, in an email. "Unfortunately, as a result, we had to cancel flights to /from Seattle, and some of our guests felt the effects throughout our network—including here in Hawai 'i."
Chun said Alaska Airlines had notified customers and modified its flexible travel policy to include all ticket types, even nonrefundable tickets, for travel up to Jan. 16.
Mokulele Airlines, which normally operates 120 interisland flights, has a few employees who are on leave due to COVID-19 protocols, but no cancellations were necessary during the holiday season, according to Keith Sisson, the airline's chief of staff.
"In fact, we added almost 80 roundtrip flights to meet the increased demand to the islands of Molokai and Lanai, " Sisson said in an email. "We have experienced a few delays, but those delays were not due to crew availability."
The additional flights are being offered over the period from Dec. 19 to Tuesday, Chun said.