| American Airlines cuts thousands of flights in March as pandemic hopes clash with reality|
TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY 7:07 AM ET 1/26/2022
Symbol Last Price Change
|AAL ||16.46 ||0 (0%)|
|LUV ||43.85 ||0 (0%)|
|BA ||204.1 ||0 (0%)|
|QUOTES AS OF 04:00:00 PM ET 01/25/2022 |
American Airlines (AAL) has cut thousands of flights from its schedule for the month of March as omicron, pilot shortages and delivery delays on Boeing’s 787 planes hinder the recovery from the two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fort Worth-based airline has axed nearly 40,000 flights from its March plans since the middle of December, including more than 1,600 arrivals and departures out of DFW International Airport, the airline’s biggest hub, according to Dallas-based Airline Data Inc.
An American Airlines(AAL) spokesman confirmed the cuts and said the airline is working with passengers in advance to make sure that changes create “minimal” impact on customers.
Other airlines, including Atlanta-based Delta and Chicago-based United, have made similar cuts in recent weeks as they face the same issues confronting American. Delta has cut about 30,000 flights for March in recent weeks and United has cut 10,000 flights.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines(LUV), which only releases schedules five to six months in advance of flights, hasn’t made the same kind of flight reductions for March.
Many of American’s schedule reductions came in mid-December and the rest occurred earlier this month, the company said.
The cuts come during another key travel period — spring break, when airports often see their biggest crowds of the year. American made similar cuts to its January and February schedules, although those months are often the weakest travel periods of the year for airlines between Christmas holidays and the beginning of the spring and summer travel rush.
For DFW travelers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that destinations from the North Texas airport are disappearing, but there will likely be fewer daily flights to cities such as Midland and St. George, Utah. DFW is losing about 52 flights a day in March but will still see as many as 1,512 arriving and departing flights on Tuesday, March 8, its busiest day for flights during the spring break rush.
Airlines often make flight plans 10 or 11 months in advance, and that means making cuts or additions as COVID-19 continues to make the future unpredictable, said Jeff Pelletier, co-founder of Airline Data Inc.
“It’s left airlines in a wait-and-see mode,” Pelletier said. “But all the airlines are getting better at balancing the unknown — and there are a lot of unknowns right now.”
While American Airlines’ leaders are optimistic the omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge has peaked, the airline continues to reduce its expectations for the coming months as it faces the other realities caused by the ongoing global health crisis, including supply chain and labor constraints.
“Everything that we see suggests that there is a pent-up desire for people to get out on the road, whether it’s for leisure or business,” American Airlines(AAL) president and incoming CEO Robert Isom said last week.
Between bottlenecks with its Boeing 787 jets and pilot training, American Airlines(AAL) is being forced to cut back, even though leisure travelers are eager to fly and businesses are gradually sending more employees on trips.
American Airlines (AAL) said last week that it’s talking with Boeing(BA) about additional compensation for delays on 19 Boeing 787 jets that were supposed to be delivered in 2021, planes the carrier needs for long-haul travel to Europe, South America, Asia and for cross-country flying.
“As for 2022 capacity, much of our plans are subject to the uncertain timing of deliveries of our aircraft,” American Airlines(AAL) chief financial officer Derek Kerr said last week. “As I mentioned previously, we removed these aircraft from our near-term schedule to protect our customers.”
Boeing (BA) halted delivery of its signature 787 Dreamliner jets last year because of production issues. The Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer still hasn’t indicated when those planes may be OK’d for delivery.
American Airlines (AAL) also needs to hire as many as 2,000 pilots this year to make up for a big chunk of the company’s pilots hitting retirement age and for others who took early retirement packages during the pandemic.
But getting pilots hired and trained takes months, and airlines are also trying to figure out how to hire pilots without taking staff pilots from regional airlines that are critical to its network.
“The biggest issue that we’re dealing with is the throughput of pilots and getting them through training,” Isom said. “We’ve invested an incredible amount of resources [in] having training assets ready to go. Those are all coming online.”