American Airlines cancels 1% of July flights as surge stretches staff

Airline scrapped more than 400 flights at the weekend and into Monday

epa09291093 American Airlines aircrafts, both are Boeing 737-823, with tail numbers N857NN (front) and N846NN (back), are seen on the tarmac at Boston's Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 21 June 2021. American Airlines had to cancel hundreds of flights over the past weekend and will be cancelling more flights in the coming weeks due to staffing shortages.  EPA/CJ GUNTHER
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American Airlines has dropped about 1 per cent of its scheduled daily flights in July after a faster-than-expected surge in summer travel has led to crew shortages.

The airline will cancel 950 flights during the first 13 days of July after it scrapped more than 400 flights at the weekend and into Monday.

American cited poor weather reported at its Miami and Chicago hubs, which exacerbated a shortfall in pilots. In some cases, delays caused by storms exhausted its group of reserve pilots.

The sudden jump in demand fuelled by people tired of staying close to home has strained airlines’ ability to rebuild operations cut back amid the onset of the pandemic last year.

Pilots who took leave and those who were switched to new types of planes have had to be retrained as flight demand has recovered to near-2019 levels.

The squeeze seems to be affecting American the most as of Monday.

It accounted for 125 of the 142 cancelled flights within, into or out of the US, tracking website FlightAware said.

American and other airlines have had trouble matching their desire to offer flights with their ability to assemble crews, although it expects to complete training for furloughed pilots by the end of June.

The airline said it had dropped flights in markets that have other options for passengers and is working to make schedule changes in advance of travellers’ departure dates.

Airlines have struggled to match the supply of aircraft and crews with soaring demand for air travel.

This month, the number of daily US air travellers rose above 2 million for the first time since the pandemic started, the Transportation Security Administration said.

“We’re just seeing a rocket ship straight up to where we were prior to the pandemic domestically,” said Dennis Tajer, an American captain and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association.

American’s scheduling system, which has long been a sore point between the airline and its pilots’ union, has not kept up with the expanded schedule, he said.