COVID staffing shortages lead to canceled flights, long lines at airports

Travelers wait in line to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to avoid quarantine.
Travelers wait in line to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to avoid quarantine.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 2:55 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2021 at 8:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As COVID staffing shortages wreak havoc on airlines, causing flights to be canceled and delayed, screening lines at airports are also being impacted.

Long lines at the Daniel K. Inouye airport were seen Thursday night as travelers waited for hours to get through Oahu’s Safe Travels Program. One traveler estimated the wait at nearly three hours.

A spokesperson with Safe Travels attributed the long wait times to the busy holiday travel season, turbulent flight schedules, and the surge in COVID cases — mostly being fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Because of the rise in infections, some airlines have minimized or suspended pre-screening operations at their gates.

“We are experiencing more screeners being out sick during this elevated case count episode,” the spokesperson said. “The Safe Travels team is managing this with extra shifts and overtime. We appreciate traveler’s participation in the program to reduce health risks during this pandemic.”

Officials recommend travelers prepare by uploading proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to Safe Travels before flying.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines canceled 27 flights on Friday due to staff shortages resulting from COVID exposure. Some 22 interisland flights and five trans-pacific flights were grounded.

The airline said 175 employees have tested positive, with more than 270 isolating.

Hawaiian Airlines apologized for any delays and said they are working to keep up as many flights as they can.

So far, more than 3,000 flights have been canceled globally.

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