United flights canceled as 3,000 employees out sick with COVID-19

Holiday travel stress has extended into the new year, as more flights are canceled due to COVID-19.

United Airlines announced flight cuts due to many sick workers.

In a letter to United employees, CEO Scott Kirby wrote that about 3,000 employees are currently positive for COVID. Kirby says they acted early to cancel flights and notify customers.

In addition, they're reducing near-term schedules to make sure they have staffing.

A DePaul Transportation expert says travelers needs to be ready.

"Consumers are on high alert. We saw it over Christmas. The spike here could even be bigger for United. We’ll wait and see for other airlines but you have to have that plan B," said Joe Schwieterman, Ph.D., DePaul University.

Professor Schwieterman says this all hits during the relatively slow January travel time. But many of us are looking ahead to spring break and will be ready to fly soon.

"Come February, there’s going to be pressure to get as many flights in the air as possible," said Schwieterman.


With the continuing uncertainty, more people are opting for travel insurance.

"That is primarily because people are more aware of these unforeseen events," said Omar Kaywan, Goose Insurance.

Kaywan says insurance can cover costs if your trip gets canceled or you get sick.

"If you are traveling domestically within United States, you are looking at about $30 to $40 of travel insurance that will cover you for medical as well as for your trip costs," said Kaywan.

Back to United Airlines, even with thousands of COVID cases, the CEO says their vaccine requirement is working. Kirby says among vaccinated employees they've had zero hospitalizations and zero deaths. Before that mandate, United averaged more than one death per week.