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United has 3,000 employees out with COVID as staff shortages continue

Jan. 11, 2022
3 min read
United has 3,000 employees out with COVID as staff shortages continue
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United Airlines has about 3,000 employees out sick with COVID-19, CEO Scott Kirby said in a letter to employees on Tuesday, or roughly 4% of its U.S. workforce.

The airline plans to cut its schedule in the near-term, Kirby said, part of an effort to reduce the strain on remaining employees and get a handle on the staffing shortage-related cancellations that have plagued the airline since Christmas Eve as the omicron variant spread across the U.S.

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While a wide range of airlines have been forced to cancel flights due to high numbers of staff testing positive, United was among the first airlines to see its operation affected, and it continues to see an impact.

Part of the issue for the Chicago-based carrier appears to be its high degree of exposure to the New York and broader Northeast market, where the omicron variant spread like wildfire through December. Kirby said that the airline's hub in Newark, New Jersey, has seen a severe impact, with as many as one-third of Newark-based employees calling out sick in a given day.

Roughly 20,000 U.S. flights were canceled over the holiday travel period as staffing shortages combined with winter storms across the country to wreak havoc on airline networks. United canceled 3,008 mainline flights between Dec. 24 and Jan. 10, according to data from FlightAware, roughly 8% of its scheduled service.

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JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, and others have already trimmed their schedules for January in an effort to cope with the spread of the variant.

United did not say how many flights overall it would cut. The airline, along with other carriers, has also offered premium pay for healthy pilots to pick up trips.

Kirby noted in the memo that none of its employees who have been vaccinated are currently hospitalized. It was not immediately clear whether unvaccinated employees — such as those with approved exemptions to the airline's vaccine mandate — are currently in the hospital.

Read more: Snapshot: 1 in 13 flights were canceled during the holidays. How US airlines fared

Kirby also said that the rate of hospitalization among the airline's employees has been "100x lower than the general population in the U.S." since the vaccine mandate went into effect, and said that while more than one employee was dying weekly from COVID-19 on average before the mandate, the airline has gone eight straight weeks with no fatalities among vaccinated employees.

"[B]ased on United’s prior experience and the nationwide data related to COVID fatalities among the unvaccinated, that means there are approximately 8-10 United employees who are alive today because of our vaccine requirement," he wrote.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023