United CEO estimates airline will see smaller financial hit from omicron than delta

The chief executive officer of United Airlines during an interview with CNBC on Wednesday estimated that while the omicron variant might affect their bookings and revenue, the airline would ultimately suffer a smaller hit than it during the delta wave.

“We've said ... the recovery from COVID will never be a straight line ... Omicron is almost certainly — it's too early to really tell, but it's going to certainly have a near-term impact on bookings. Bookings are going to be lower than they otherwise would have been,” United CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC.

“But you know, I think this will be three steps forward, one step backwards. Delta was two steps forward, and one step back, and the next variable will be four steps forward and one back. We're much better at dealing with this as a society,” he continued.

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Kirby estimated that the vaccines would likely be effective at curbing the spread of the new variant, and he noted that even though the airlines might see a small dip in revenue, “the dip will be much smaller than it was for delta.”

Kirby’s comments come as airlines determine how to tackle the emergence of the newly detected omicron variant, which has made its way into a number of countries within the span of days. Several countries have instituted travel restrictions to curb spread of the variant.

The first case of omicron found in the U.S. was detected on Wednesday in California. Health officials previously noted that the variant would likely make its way into the country given its prevalence in southern Africa, Europe and elsewhere.

Health officials have pleaded with Americans to get their vaccines if they have not done so already and to get their booster shots if they are eligible. 

"[T]he fact is that people should wind up getting vaccinated and boosted if they’re eligible for a boost. I keep coming back to that because that’s really the solution to this problem," President BidenJoe BidenDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors On The Money — Vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses nixed Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case MORE’s chief medical adviser Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKid Rock releases anti-Biden, anti-Fauci single with a 'Let's go, Brandon' chorus Fauci: Omicron-specific vaccines 'prudent' but may be unnecessary Conservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul MORE said at a White House press briefing on Wednesday.