Alaska Airlines Joins Others in Canceling Flights But Says Weather, Not COVID, to Blame

Alaska Airlines, like several other airlines, canceled hundreds of flights over the holiday weekend but said it was because of a winter storm in the Pacific Northwest, not COVID-19.

On Sunday, Alaska Airlines canceled nearly 250 flights from Seattle and estimated more than 100 additional flights would be canceled on Monday.

Sunday's winter storm system covered Seattle with roughly 6 inches of snow overnight. Emergency warming shelters were opened in parts of the state after temperatures plummeted into the teens and were expected to stick around for at least a few days.

There is more snow predicted for the Seattle area on Thursday, but only 1 to 3 inches of accumulation is expected, according to the Weather Channel.

Flights leaving out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were delayed about an hour on Monday because the runways needed to be plowed and planes needed to go through the de-icing process before takeoff.

Alaska Airlines said it previously struggled with crew members calling out sick with COVID-19, but it was not a factor in the recent flight cancellations.

Canceled Flights From Winter Storm
Airlines canceled hundreds of flights on Monday because of a winter storm in the Pacific Northwest. Above, the Arrivals-Departures screen shows canceled flights at La Guardia Airport during a winter storm on February 2, 2015, in New York City. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Delta, United, JetBlue and American had all said that the coronavirus was causing staffing problems, and European and Australian airlines also canceled holiday-season flights because staff were infected, but weather and other factors played a role as well.

Staffers calling out sick because of COVID-19, particularly since the emergence of the Omicron variant, have left airlines short in recent days. According to FlightAware, which tracks flight cancellations, airlines have canceled roughly 4,000 flights to, from or inside the U.S. since Friday.

United said it canceled 115 flights Monday, out of more than 4,000 scheduled, due to crews out with COVID-19.

Flight delays and cancellations tied to staffing shortages have been a consistent problem this year. Airlines encouraged workers to quit in 2020 when air travel collapsed, and were caught short-staffed this year as air travel rebounded faster than almost anyone had expected.

Airlines have called on the Biden administration to shorten the guidelines for the isolation period for vaccinated workers who get COVID-19, in order to ease staffing shortages. The union for flight attendants has pushed back against that, saying the isolation period should remain 10 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Flights Canceled Holiday Weekend
Airlines canceled hundreds of flights on Monday because of a winter storm in the Pacific Northwest. Above, travelers at check-in kiosks in Denver International Airport on December 26, 2021. David Zalubowski/AP Photo