Travel stocks fall as Omicron spurs mass flight cancellations for fourth day

Dec 27 (Reuters) – Shares of U.S. airlines and other travel-related companies fell on Monday as rising Omicron cases and weather-related problems forced the cancellation of hundreds more flights, leaving travelers stranded across the country during the holidays.

Over 1,000 flights were canceled within, into, or out of the United States on Monday, data from flight-tracking website FlightAware.com showed. Globally, more than 2,600 flights were scrapped.

That was on top of over 3,000 U.S. flight cancellations during the Christmas holiday weekend, typically a peak time for travel for Americans.

Shares of American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O), United Airlines Holdings Inc and Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N)were down about 1% in afternoon trade. Southwest Airlines Co’s(LUV.N) shares recovered losses to trade about flat.

Most airline stocks have rallied this year on hopes of a travel boom as travelers start visiting friends and family after dealing with pandemic-related restrictions last year.

8However, staff shortages at airlines, weather-related disruptions and now the fast-spreading Omicron variant have disrupted flights frequently this year. 

As long as the Omicron variant continues to infect people who are vaccinated and quarantine restrictions remain in place, air travel is expected to be hit by staffing shortages, research firm Third Bridge Group’s Peter McNally said.

Southwest Airlines said it had canceled about 50 of the 3,600 flights scheduled Monday due to weather-related problems. United Airlines said it had called off 115 of the 4,000 flights that were scheduled, while Deltaexpects to cancel over 200 of 4,166 its scheduled flights

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