American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights over the weekend, blaming “labor shortages” and the “incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand.”
In total, 296 flights were scrapped: 120 on Saturday and another 176 on Sunday. The cancellations came soon after the airline rapidly increased flying to meet a surge in travel demand.
Over the four-day period from Friday, June 18 to Monday, June 21, American is approaching 500 flight cancelations, according to Flight Aware data.
The airline pointed towards “unprecedented” weather conditions and vendor labor shortages as additional reasons why flights were curtailed.
“The first few weeks of June have brought unprecedented weather to our largest hubs, heavily impacting our operation and causing delays, canceled flights and disruptions to crew member schedules and our customers’ plans,” an American Airlines spokesperson told Newsweek.
“That, combined with the labor shortages some of our vendors are contending with and the incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand, has led us to build in additional resilience and certainty to our operation by adjusting a fraction of our scheduled flying through mid-July.”
Vendors that provide in-flight catering, wheelchair pushers and fueling services were said to be short staffed, which can slow operations and create inconveniences for customers, an American Airlines executive told the Wall Street Journal.
The decision to cut some flights was also believed to be in part operational, alleviating pressure on maintenance, creating a bigger pool of pilots on reserve, providing a buffer when needed and giving more breathing room when unexpected problems arise.
However, the airline stressed that the number of flights culled was relatively small and was equivalent to about 1 percent of their planned flying in the first half of July.
“We made targeted changes with the goal of impacting the fewest number of customers by adjusting flights in markets where we have multiple options for re-accommodation,” the airline’s spokesperson added.
The cancellations are seen by some as a response to the difficulty in scaling-up after a pandemic-hit year of depressed demand, and meeting a need for travel that has returned more robustly than anticipated, combined with possible staff and pilot shortages.
“I think they’re afraid they’re not going to be able to run the operation as they’ve scheduled it, so they’re pulling back,” Brett Snyder, who runs the Cranky Flier website and travel-concierge service, told WSJ. “That’s good for the traveler.”
American Airlines has made ambitious plans to return to the air this summer, with aims to fly nearly as much this season as it did before the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline is also flying much more than its closest competitors, United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. and its schedule is planned to be 20 percent larger than Delta’s and United’s for July, measured by available seat miles, according to Cirium, an airline data provider.