Travelers head to their gates at Long Island MacArthur Airport...

Travelers head to their gates at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, where minor delays were reported, but no cancellations, on Sunday. Credit: James Carbone

Nearly 80 flights arriving or departing from Kennedy and LaGuardia airports were canceled on Monday, a potential result of the worldwide spread of the omicron variant, which has been causing staffing shortages on many airlines.

Across the globe, nearly 2,800 flights had been canceled Monday amid the spread of omicron, including more than 1,100 in the United States, according to FlightAware. Airports in Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles appeared to be the most affected by the cancellations.

By late Monday afternoon, JFK had reported 52 cancellations on departures or arrivals from the Queens airport, with JetBlue Airways flights representing about half of those cancellations, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking website.

JetBlue spokesman Derek Dombrowski said the airline was forced to cancel 66 flights nationwide Monday, with the possibility of a handful more depending on crew availability.

"We entered the holiday season with the highest staffing levels we've had since the pandemic began and are using all resources available to us to cover our staffing needs," Dombrowski said. "Despite our best efforts, we've had to cancel a number of flights, and additional flight cancellations and other delays remain a possibility as we see more omicron community spread. The health and safety of our crew members and customers remains our top priority as we work through this pandemic."

During the first half of Monday, LaGuardia reported 33 cancellations on departures or arrivals, largely a mix of Delta, American and JetBlue flights.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said the government should consider imposing a vaccine mandate for domestic airline travelers.

"If you’re making a requirement for vaccination for people to get on planes who are coming into the country, that’s understandable," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC Monday. "You don’t want to bring more cases into the country. But if you’re talking about requiring vaccination to get on a plane domestically, that is just another one of the requirements that I think is reasonable to consider."

Flight delays and cancellations tied to staffing shortages have been a regular problem for the U.S. airline industry this year, with airlines short-staffed after an initial recovery from 2020's COVID-19 service reductions.

Some cancellations and delays around the nation also appear to be linked to weather or maintenance issues.

FlightAware does not provide information on why flights are canceled, but airlines said last week that the variant had caused staffing shortages, leading to cancellations in recent days.

"The nationwide spike in omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation," United Airlines said in a statement over the weekend. "As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport."

There were no cancellations Sunday or Monday at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, according to the website.

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