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Tipsheet

United Blames Omicron for Canceling Flights, While Laid Off Employees Said They Were Ready to Go Back to Work

AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File

In recent days, numerous airlines have canceled flights, citing the Omicron variant. One such airline, United Airlines, has a vaccine mandate in place, which CEO Scott Kirby has been determined to enforce in a particularly strict way. As Kirby insists on laying off workers or placing them on unpaid leave for not getting vaccinated, many have taken to Twitter to communicate they are ready to get back to work.

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Writing for CNN Business, Pete Muntean reported that "More than 6,000 flights canceled on Christmas weekend." Citing FlightAware, Muntean noted that "United canceled 201 flights on Friday, representing 10% of its total schedule, and 238 flights on Saturday, representing 12% of its schedule."

Reporting from Dawn Gilbertson with USA Today on December 24 noted that with customer service phone lines, "United was quoting a 25- to 30-minute wait. A recording on United's reservations line said "significant weather" has impacted its call center staffing and urged travelers without flights in the next 72 hours to call back later."

Messages from United sent to travelers noted that cancelations were "due to an increase in Covid cases limiting crew availability."

A memo sent to "All pilots" from United that was obtained by Townhall noted that "The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact in our flight crews and the people who run our operation. As a result, we've unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport."

Another memo obtained by Townhall to "Inflight services" addressed "Maintaining availability throughout the holiday season." It read in part that "For the first half of December, roughly 15% of flight attendants have called in sick for their assignments, which equates to nearly 700 sick calls every day. While rates are already elevated, we are projecting rates to rise by 25% or more for the remainder of the month. Our projections show an especially challenging environment in our small bases and satellites, where rates are exceeding those at our hubs--yet we gave fewer available reserves to protect the operation."

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Ted Cruz highlighted during a Senate hearing earlier this month that United has placed over 2,000 employees on unpaid leave due to the vaccine mandate, which Kirby has tried to gloss over. 

Danielle Runyan, who is a co-founder and director of legislative affairs for Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom (AE4HF) tweeted that workers placed on unpaid leave for not getting vaccinated, even if they had religious or medical reasons not to, were ready to come into work.

In a statement for Townhall, AE4HF noted that members of their organization "would ask United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby why - as the Airline industry struggles to meet travel demand for the holidays - is he laying off pilots and workers over a needless mandate for Covid vaccinations?"

Not only has United subjected its employees to an arduous vaccine mandate, but Kirby has been captured on video revealing that very exemptions would be granted for those who applied for the reasonable accommodation process (RAP). Further, employees who went through the application process were told they were effectively resigning and were placed on unpaid leave. 

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AE4HF exists to help workers through the process of what they call an "unreasonable accommodation."

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