Delta Air Lines COVID Surge Hit 8K Workers, Canceled 2,200 Flights Since Christmas Eve

As COVID-19 spikes led by the Omicron variant hit the United States, many airlines are seeing the negative impacts, but officials at Delta Air Lines predict they will bounce back this year.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said that over the last four weeks, 8,000 employees have been infected with the virus, the Associated Press reported. A combination of the increased number of infected employees not being able to return to work while self-isolating and a surge in winter storms have led to more than 2,200 flight cancellations since Dec. 24.

As a result, on Wednesday, Delta became the first major airline to extend expiration dates for travel credits, according to USA Today. Per the new policy, customers will have through the end of 2023 to book a new plane ticket for travel through 2024.

"We want to ensure our customers enjoy peace of mind when booking or rebooking their Delta trips this year," Chief Customer Experience Officer Allison Ausband said in a statement. "This leading extension provides more time for customers to use their travel credits, so they can book with complete confidence that Delta has their back even when moments arise out of their control."

According to the AP, the airline lost $408 million in the last quarter of 2021. In an interview, Bastian predicted travel would not pick back up until at least mid-February, saying this period is "always the weakest part of the year, and it's going to be that much weaker because of Omicron."

However, while the airline experienced losses, its fourth-quarter earnings of $9.47 billion still exceeded analysts' predictions of $9.21 billion, CNBC reported. In 2019, the same period's earnings sat at $11.44 billion. While the airline's revenue has not reached the same levels as before the pandemic, the $9.47 billion figure is the airline's highest since then, increasing hope that things are on the right track.

In an earnings release, Dan Janki, Delta's chief financial officer, said though the airline expects a loss in the March quarter, "we remain positioned to generate a healthy profit in the June, September and December quarters, resulting in a meaningful profit in 2022."

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Delta also plans to give $1,250 checks to all employees who worked during the second half of 2021.

Delta is not the only U.S. airline that has faced issues brought on by the Omicron surge. The AP reported that early this week, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in a letter to employees that 3,000 of the airline's workers had tested positive for the virus.

Just in one day, almost a third of Newark's United employees had to call out of work due to sickness, forcing the airline to cancel flights.

Delta Air Lines, JFK International Airport
Delta Air Lines said it had to cancel over 2,200 flights as a result of the Omicron variant. Above, travelers carrying suitcases walk past Delta Air Lines sign at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, on Dec. 24, 2021. Photo by Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images