American Airlines Forced to Cancel Hundreds of Flights This Weekend Amidst Severe Staffing Issues

By Paul Riegler on 20 June 2021
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A Boeing 737 first-class cabin

Citing staffing issues, American Airlines cancelled hundreds of flights over the course of this weekend due to staffing and maintenance issues and has already cancelled 97 for Monday. As of 5:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, the airline had cancelled 179 flights and 123 flights were cancelled on Saturday, according to FlightAware, a service that tracks such information.

The flights that were cancelled were largely those being operated using aircraft in American’s narrow-body fleet, namely Boeing 737s and some Airbus A320s.  The airline is only halfway through moving its furloughed 737 pilots through the required five days of coursework and simulator training needed to requalify them for active duty, which accounts for much of the pilot shortage.

The airline, meanwhile, is using technology to minimize the impact felt by passengers to the extent possible.

“We have 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 said to ABC in a statement.

The timing couldn’t be worse, however.

The cancellations are taking place at a time when the travel industry is seeing a return to the skies for the first time in 15 months.  Travel levels for June are at 80% of pre-pandemic figures.  Passengers are facing long lines in airports thanks to staffing shortages the Transportation Security Administration, which runs the nation’s airport security checkpoints, is facing.

American last May cut its management and support staff ranks by 30% amidst the coronavirus pandemic-decline in travel. The airline had accelerated its fleet retirement and is operating 100 fewer planes than it flew before the pandemic.

“We must plan for operating a smaller airline for the foreseeable future,” said Elise Eberwein, the airline’s executive vice president for human resources, in an internal memorandum announcing the cuts that was viewed by Frequent Business Traveler last May.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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