Airlines have been forced to stop work and this is the third week in a row that the coronavirus has disrupted normal travel

Omicron outbreak forces cancellation of more than 6,000 flights worldwide

AFP/PHILIP FONG - Airlines have been forced to stop work and this is the third week in a row that the coronavirus has disrupted normal travel.

Flight Aware, a US company specialising in providing real-time flight data, has reported that more than 6,000 flights have been cancelled worldwide over Christmas and Christmas Eve. This is due to an unstoppable advance of the new variant of the coronavirus, known as omicron, which is in a phase of unstoppable global expansion and countries are having to take urgent action in the wake of its advance. 

According to the American brand, at 9 a.m. on the east coast of the United States, 4,900 international flights had already been suspended. Moreover, 15,837 journeys have been delayed in reaching their destination.  

Several airlines have had to issue communiqués to explain to their travellers what is happening, as well as informing them that they are experiencing a unique situation. The American airline, Delta, has explained that several problems are occurring. One of them is the impact of Covid-19, which, in addition to the fact that people are having to confine themselves due to contagion, the company's workers are suffering the same and are therefore unable to operate. They also report that weather conditions in some places are causing difficulties in making journeys. United is another firm that is suffering from the effects of the virus and has warned in its statement that the company's staff are unavailable for work due to a direct impact of the new variant. 


On the other hand, these situations are forcing the airlines to engage in discussions with unions to find a solution to the problems. Airlines for America, a union group representing Delta, United and American airlines, has sent a letter to Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to respond to the demands. The group of airlines is demanding a relaxation of the measures imposed by this institution on the confinement of those infected with Covid-19, as the CDC advises ten days of rest, while Airlines for America is asking for a maximum of five days. On the other hand, and in contradiction with the airlines, the flight attendants' union has asked the director of the centre to maintain the ten days of isolation for the safety of all.  


The omicron effect is forcing countries to take risky decisions that could bring the world economy to a grinding halt. Added to all this is the fact that the variant has coincided with the Christmas campaign, which is one of the months when most people move between countries to enjoy the holidays in their places of origin. The IMF - International Monetary Fund - already pointed out some time ago that the virus continues to be the main risk factor for the world economy. And although it is not as deadly as its predecessors, the variant has forced different territories to armour themselves, and this seriously affects economic growth. 

"A new variant that can expand rapidly can dent confidence and in this sense, we are likely to see cuts to our October projections for global growth," warns Kristalina Georgieva, IMF director. 


The restraints that nations are taking are differing. Some European countries such as Germany, Portugal and Finland have taken action against the leisure and catering sectors, which will again be affected by the virus. France and Italy, following the impact of positives after the Christmas holidays, are already developing containment measures. Morocco closed its borders almost a month ago and the Netherlands is in mandatory containment decreed by the government to curb the spread of the virus.  

Experts predict that 2022 will be tough in economic terms after this year's last quarter recess. Global inflation is the risk most feared by experts to rise in the coming year, as economic authorities do not rule out that the measures will continue and inflation will have to be dealt with as events unfold. On the other hand, the IMF expects global GDP to rise and remain above its average, but at a slower pace than this year, as a result of the coronavirus.