Almost 4,000 flights were cancelled on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as the travel industry battles to cope with the surge of the Omicron Covid variant.
According to the website FlightAware, 2,175 flights around the world were scrapped on Christmas Eve while another 1,779 flights were cancelled on Christmas Day.
A further 402 scheduled for Boxing Day have also been axed.
The travel industry is battling to cope with a new wave of Covid cases sparked by the Omicron variant as staff and customers are forced into isolation.
The majority of the cancellations came from five firms, China Eastern, Air China, United, Air India and Delta.
A spokesperson for United told the Guardian: “The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on 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.”
Delta also said it had been badly impacted by the Omicron variant.
The airline said it had “exhausted all options and resources – including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying – before cancelling around 90 flights for Friday”.
On Friday the UK recorded 122,186 daily coronavirus cases, setting a new record for the third consecutive day.
The Omicron variant is thought to cause less severe illness than the previously dominant Delta strain, with those who catch it 50 to 70 per cent less likely to require hospital treatment.
However, the wave has led to millions being forced to self-isolate putting pressure on essential services which are struggling to cope with staff absences.
The arrival of the new strain has also sparked travel restrictions in the UK, much to the panic of the travel industry which has not been offered support packages from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Currently, anyone travelling into the UK must present proof of a negative test and take two PCR tests within two days of arrival. They must self-isolate until they get notification of a negative result.
These restrictions look set to stay in place until the end of January, according to reports.
Industry insiders have told The Times that they have “abandoned hope” that the restrictions will be eased at the next travel review on January 5.