If you thought the rash of canceled flights over the holidays was the end of it, United Airlines CEO offered a cold dose of reality on Tuesday. In a memo to employees, Scott Kirby explained the company is "reducing our near-term schedules to make sure we have the staffing and resources to take care of customers." CNN reports that he didn't quantify the reduction, but he did offer some other numbers in the email: Namely, that 3,000 employees are currently positive for COVID-19, though the good news is that they're no longer dying.
While United employees had been succumbing to COVID at the rate of more than one per week, Kirby wrote that the company, which has a vaccine mandate in place, hasn't experienced a COVID-related death in 8 weeks among vaccinated employees. Axios reports Kirby's policy "seems to be vindicated" in the letter. Indeed, in the August memo announcing the mandate, the leadership team wrote this: "Over the last 16 months, Scott has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from COVID-19. We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter."
More from the memo: The New York Times reports the airline had to cancel about 8% of its flights, or 27,000 of them, over the two weeks beginning Dec. 24. To put a number to the strain, Kirby noted that on one day over the holidays, roughly 1 in 3 United employees at Newark called in sick. The cancellation numbers are still there these days, but definitely much smaller, with the Times reporting about 150 United flights were canceled Tuesday. (Read more United Airlines stories.)