Alaska Airlines will cut the number of flights by 10% through the end of January, the Sea-Tac Airport based company announced Thursday.

Airline industrywide staffing shortages driven by the resurgent coronavirus pandemic had forced Alaska to cancel or delay hundreds of flights in recent weeks. Those shortages were compounded by heavy snows that hit Western Washington in the last week of December, amid the holiday rush.

“We’re at our  best when we are safe, reliable and caring,” Alaska spokesperson Bobbie Egan said in a statement. “And right now, we need to build more reliability back into our operation as we deal with the impacts of omicron and during a time when guests generally fly less.”

Alaska’s announcement came on a day in which more than 1,800 U.S. flights were canceled by afternoon on the East Coast, according to FlightAware. The tracking service said that equaled about 8% of the day’s scheduled flights, and it was the 12th straight day of 1,000-plus cancellations, which airlines blamed on the COVID-19 surge and winter weather.

Cuts to Alaska fights through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will be in line with the companywide 10% cut, Egan said by email. Alaska is Sea-Tac Airport’s busiest carrier, operating about 46% of all flights out of the airport.

While airlines had hoped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decision to halve to five days the suggested quarantine time for many COVID-positive workers would ease the staffing issues, many continue to curtail services. JetBlue announced a similar decision last week, cutting about 1,300 flights through mid-January. Delta, Alaska’s largest competitor at Sea-Tac, also has reduced flights.


As it has for its competitors, the omicron variant’s emergence has led to an “unprecedented” number of employee sick calls at Alaska, Egan said. The reduction in flights through the end of January will help the airline “return to the level of service [customers] know and expect from us,” she continued.

The reduction “will give us the flexibility and capacity needed to reset while continued flexible travel policies enable guests to adjust their plans accordingly,” Egan said. “This will also give us time and space to find our path forward together, with Covid-19 as a continued reality in our business and our world.”

More on the COVID-19 pandemic

U.S. cancellations began rising on Christmas Eve and peaked Monday at more than 3,200 — about 1 in every 8 flights. In addition to cutting flights, airlines including United and Spirit have offered bonus pay to find employees willing to work extra days.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.