Kent German/CNET
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The recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant has wreaked havoc on one of the busiest travel days of the year. On Friday, a number of major airlines reported flight delays or cancellations in part due to pandemic-related staffing shortages. 

According to Flight Aware, which monitors airlines and airports, 1,233 flights “within, into or out of the United States” were delayed  and 530 flights were canceled as of 9:12 a.m. PT. 

Friday’s travel issues continued to build on troubles experienced on Thursday, when Flight Aware reported 5,679 delayed flights  and 281 canceled flights in the US.   

United, Delta and JetBlue are the hardest hit US airlines on Friday. New Jersey’s Newark Liberty, Los Angeles International, Chicago’s O’Hare and Fort Lauderdale International in Florida are among the most impacted airports in the US. 

United confirmed the issue was related to the omicron variant

“The nationwide spike in omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” United said in a statement. “As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport. We’re sorry for the disruption and are working hard to rebook as many people as possible and get them on their way for the holidays.”

In a blog post, Delta attributed delays to both omicron and winter.

“As winter weather impacts the northwest and northeast U.S. [and] the omicron variant continues to surge, Delta teams exhausted all options and resources before canceling around 158 flights in Friday’s nearly 3,100-flight schedule,” Delta said. “We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans. Delta people are working together around the clock to reroute and substitute aircraft and crews to get customers where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible.”

Delta said it expects an increase in cancellations to continue through the weekend.

JetBlue did not immediately respond to a CNET request for comment. 

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