United Airlines CEO says 3,000 of its workers have contracted COVID

Justin Bachman

United Airlines Holdings Inc. is reducing its near-term flight schedule as the airline grapples with the staffing impact of the rapidly spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“In one day alone at Newark, nearly one-third of our workforce called out sick,” United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby wrote Tuesday in a memo to workers. “To those who are out sick or isolating, we wish you a speedy recovery.”

About 3,000 of its workers are currently positive for Covid-19, the CEO said. United is among multiple U.S. carriers whacked by a recent surge in omicron infections nationwide, which resulted in tens of thousands of flight cancellations across the industry during the holiday travel period.

The company will trim its flight schedule in January and February “on an ongoing basis” to adjust to staffing levels, a company spokeswoman said Tuesday. The airline declined to discuss specific capacity figures for the schedule reductions. Last week, Alaska Air Group Inc. announced a 10% capacity cut for January to help address Covid-related staffing shortages.

Kirby also touted the company’s mandatory vaccination policy and said no vaccinated employees are in the hospital due to the virus. United had 85,300 employees as of Sept. 30.

The shares fell less than 1% at 9:40 a.m. in New York.