Angry passengers hit out at American Airlines after pilot shortages, staff sickness and maintenance issues saw it cancel 303 flights over the weekend.
The airline reported that as of Sunday evening, 123 flights had been cancelled Saturday, 180 on Sunday and 98 were cancelled on Monday, with most attributed to staff calling in sick as maintenance and other staff-related issues.
Americans have returned to the skies far more quickly than large airlines were expecting as COVID-19 numbers drop, with the sudden surge in demand catching carriers by surprise, ABC News reported.
That is also said to have led to a severe shortage of Boeing 737 pilots – the jet which forms the backbone of AA’s domestic fleet. Many experienced airline pilots were fired last year as airlines struggled to stay afloat during COVID, which saw travel bans imposed – and many others left too frightened to take to the skies.
Overall, American says it plans to cancel around 1% or 950 flights for the first half of July as it struggles to adjust to a new uptick in demand as the coronavirus pandemic recedes, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Travelers lined up at the Denver International Airport on Wednesday. A sharp uptick in travelers along with staffing shortages have left airlines struggling to meet demand
The majority of cancellations were for the A320 and 737 aircraft, and American said it anticipates cancelling 50 to 60 flights per day for the remainder of June and 50 to 80 flights per day in July, with total of up to 3,000 the airline told ABC.
‘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,’ American said in a statement.
Many of those pilots put on leave after demand for air travel collapsed at the start of the COVID outbreak are now in huge demand among airlines.
The number of jets themselves have also increased, with the Boeing 737 MAX once again approved for service after two deadly crashes saw it taken out of service, according to One Mile at a Time.
As air travel saw a sharp drop-off during the pandemic, many airline employees were offered early retirement and a buyout, leaving vacancies that have yet to be filled, ABC reported.
An American Airlines 737 MAX. A pilot shortage for the aircraft may be the possible reason behind the airline’s decision to cancel flights
Companies that provide catering, fueling and wheelchair services have also been short staffed, causing disruptions across American’s operations, according to the Journal.
The cuts, an American spokesperson said, are intended to give the airline more flexibility and are intended to be focused in areas where there are other flights that can accommodate customers, the Journal also reported.
Despite the cuts, American is still scheduling far more flights than its competitors, with a July schedule roughly 20% larger than either Delta or United Airlines.
The logistical challenges come as air travel demand is approaching pre-pandemic levels, with the TSA reporting more than 2 million passengers on June 11.
American Airlines travelers shared their horror stories on social media from the weekend
Number of canceled American Airlines flights this weekend
- On Friday, June 18, 2021, American canceled 83 flights
- On Saturday, June 19, 2021, American canceled 123 flights
- On Sunday, June 20, 2021, American canceled 167 flights
- On Monday, June 21, 2021, American canceled 97 flights
Source – One Mile At A Time
It was the first time since March, 2020 that the agency had screened that many passengers.
On the same day in 2019, for example, the TSA screened around 2.7 million passengers.
After a rough weekend for the airline, American customers shared their horror stories on social media, offering a human perspective on just how disruptive the cancelations had been.
One tweeted, ‘American Airlines cancelled my flight because “not enough people boarded” and I’ve been stuck at the airport since 8 am and finally they just confirmed me for a flight at 6pm. Never again.’
Another wrote: ‘You’ve canceled two flights. I was on hold for hours. The flight change is NOT acceptable. Need to speak with an agent. Also need a refund on the extra fee I was charged for a flight change I made to my original booking that AA has now canceled. You owe me money.’
Another, Scott Kubie tweeted that his partner’s, American Airlines flight was, ‘canceled last minute for no given reason. We’re thinking pilot shortage. Fine, there’s a pilot shortage. Don’t sell tickets you can’t honor. They were incredibly s***y and unhelpful at the service counter.’
Another wrote,: ‘Hey #AAteam have a wife that just had surgery and has to fly home and you canceled the flight without out notice. Didn’t schedule another one and not nearly enough credits to pay for a last minute flight home. Good work on getting us home for #FathersDay’