American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights during the weekend because of staffing shortages, maintenance, and other issues. The airline said that about 3% of its total flights, including some operated by regional carriers, were canceled. These issues are expected to continue into July, as the airline sees travel demand quickly surge to levels not seen since before the coronavirus pandemic began.
On Saturday, 123 flights were canceled, 190 on Sunday and 106 on Monday, according to FlightAware. An internal company list showed that about half of the flights canceled on Sunday alone were due to unavailable flight crews, reports CNBC. American Airlines said its schedule would be trimmed by about 1% through mid-July to ease the disruptions. It blamed the disruptions in part on storms at the airports in Charlotte and Dallas/Fort Worth, which are both American hubs. About 950 flights in the first half of next month will be cut.
"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 crewmember schedules and our customers' plans," an airline spokesperson told CNN. "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." Customers with flights booked through July 15 will be notified or have already been notified if their flights are impacted, the airline told CNN.
As state coronavirus restrictions are lifted, the airlines are scrambling to hire more employees after spending part of 2020 trimming staff due to lower demand. American is now hiring hundreds of customer service agents after about a quarter of its agents took buyouts or voluntary leaves of absence, reports CNBC. Delta Airlines is also hiring about 1,300 people for similar positions. Both companies are reaching out to employees who took buyouts or leaves to return.
There is also a pilot shortage for American, airline blog View from the Wing reports. One pilot told the blog they are "incredibly short staff." The airline doesn't have enough Boeing 737 pilots qualified for active duty, according to the outlet. "They didn’t keep those pilots who were staying home active and qualified to fly. And they’re not all back yet, either," View from the Wing reports. "In fact as of last week, they’re only about halfway through re-qualifying pilots with a five-day course (two days in-classroom, three days in simulator)."