American Airlines planes at LaGuardia Airport
Leslie Josephs | CNBC
American Airlines said it canceled hundreds of flights this weekend due to staff shortages, maintenance and other issues, challenges for the airline as travel demand rises to pre-pandemic levels.
According to flight tracking site FlightAware, about 6% of the airline’s main flight schedule or 180 flights were canceled on Sunday. The airline said this represented about 3% of its total flights, including those operated by regional airlines. About half of them because of unavailable flight crews, showed a company list that was viewed by CNBC. About 4% or 123 flights were canceled on Saturday, the website showed.
American said it was cutting its overall plan by about 1% by mid-July to alleviate some of the disruption, some of which was due to bad weather at the hubs of Charlotte International Airport and Dallas / Fort Worth in the first half of June.
“The bad weather, combined with the labor shortage that some of our suppliers are struggling with, and the incredibly rapid rise in customer demand, has led us to make our operations even more resilient and safer by cutting a fraction of our planned flight times by mid- July, “American Airlines spokeswoman Sarah Jantz said in a statement. “We have made targeted changes with the aim of influencing the least possible number of customers by adjusting flights in markets where we have multiple options for rebooking.”
Bad weather has adversely affected flight crews’ ability to get to assigned flights, and bad weather can cause crews to drop outside of working hours they are allowed to work at the federal level, the spokeswoman said.
Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents the roughly 15,000 American pilots, said the company should offer more overtime upfront to encourage staff to fill out, as well as more flexibility in pilot plans to cover staff shortages.
“You’re trying to put a plaster on something that needs sewing,” said Tajer, who is also the captain of a Boeing 737.
American is also rushing to train any pilots it has taken on leave between two state aid packages that prohibited layoffs, as well as its Airmen due for regular recurring training. Jantz said American is well on its way to completing the training of pilots on leave by the end of this month, adding that the company is offering overtime due to its operational issues.
The weekend disruption previously reported on the airline’s View from the Wing blog comes just as airlines are trying to capture spikes in travel demand and curb record losses. American said in a filing earlier this month that capacity will decline 20 to 25% in the second quarter from 2019 while United Airlines said it expected its capacity to decrease by about 46% and delta forecast a decrease of 32% compared to 2019. Southwest Airlines predict July capacity will lag just 3% from 2019, down from a 7% decline this month.