American Airlines cancels thousands of flights in March as pandemic hopes collide with reality

American Airlines has cut thousands of flights from its schedule for the month of March as ommicron, pilot shortages and delivery delays on Boeing’s 787 aircraft hamper recovery from the two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fort Worth-based airline has canceled nearly 40,000 flights from its March plans since mid-December, including more than 1,600 arrivals and departures from DFW International Airport, the airline’s largest hub, according to Dallas-based Airline Data Inc.

An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed the cuts and said the airline is working with passengers in advance to ensure changes have a “minimal” impact on customers.

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American Airlines reports $2 billion losses for 2021 as ommicron weighs in for the foreseeable future

Fort Worth-based American Airlines lost $931 million in the fourth quarter to close out a 2021 year that was as much about surviving the COVID-19 and its variants as recovering from the devastating pandemic, it reported. business Thursday morning. American’s losses totaled $2 billion for the full 2021, a huge improvement from the company’s $8.9 billion last year, but the company noted that the ommicron variant of COVID-19 did. pressure on performance. Those variants were a recurring theme until 2021.

Other airlines, including Atlanta-based Delta and Chicago-based United, have made similar cuts in recent weeks as they face the same issues Americans face. Delta has canceled about 30,000 flights for March in recent weeks and United has canceled 10,000 flights.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, which releases flight schedules just five to six months before flights, hasn’t implemented the same kind of flight discounts for March.

Many of American’s schedules came in mid-December, with the rest earlier this month, the company said.

The cuts come during another key travel season — spring break, when airports often see their biggest crowds of the year. American has made similar cuts to schedules for January and February, although those months are often the weakest travel times of the year for airlines between the Christmas holidays and the start of the spring and summer travel rush.

For DFW travelers, this doesn’t necessarily mean destinations disappear from the North Texas airport, but there will likely be fewer daily flights to cities like Midland and St. George, Utah. DFW will lose about 52 flights a day in March, but will still see a staggering 1,512 arriving and departing flights on Tuesday, March 8, the busiest day for Spring Break flights.

Airlines often make flight plans 10 or 11 months in advance, and that means cuts or additions as COVID-19 continues to make the future unpredictable, said Jeff Pelletier, co-founder of Airline Data Inc.

“It has left airlines on a wait-and-see attitude,” Pelletier said. “But all airlines are getting better at balancing the unknown — and there are a lot of unknowns right now.”

While American Airlines leaders are optimistic that the ommicron-fueled COVID-19 wave has peaked, the airline continues to lower its expectations for the coming months as it faces the other realities brought on by the ongoing global health crisis. , including supply chain and labor constraints.

“Everything we’re seeing suggests there’s a pent-up desire for people to take to the road, whether it’s for leisure or business,” said Robert Isom, president and upcoming CEO of American Airlines, last week.

Between the bottlenecks with its Boeing 787 jets and pilot training, American Airlines is being forced to cut spending, though vacationers are eager to fly and companies are gradually sending more employees on trips.

American Airlines said last week it is in talks with Boeing about additional compensation for delays on 19 Boeing 787 jets to be delivered in 2021, planes the airline needs for long-haul travel to Europe, South America, Asia and for cross-country flights. country flying.

“In terms of 2022 capacity, many of our plans are subject to the uncertain timing of our aircraft deliveries,” American Airlines chief financial officer Derek Kerr said last week. “As I mentioned earlier, we have removed these aircraft from our short-term schedule to protect our customers.”

Boeing stopped deliveries of its signature 787 Dreamliner jets last year due to production problems. The Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer has still not specified when those aircraft will be in order for delivery.

American Airlines also has to hire as many as 2,000 pilots this year to make up for many of the company’s pilots who are reaching retirement age and for others who took early retirement during the pandemic.

But it takes months to hire and train pilots, and airlines are also trying to figure out how to hire pilots without hiring staff pilots from regional airlines that are critical to their network.

“The biggest problem we face is piloting throughput and helping them through training,” Isom said. “We have invested an incredible amount of resources [in] have training equipment ready for use. They will all come online.”

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