American Airlines said it’s cutting hundreds of flights through at least mid-July as it works to balance an “incredibly quick” jump in travel demand with a labor shortage and several weeks of inclement weather.
The airline canceled roughly 300 flights over the weekend, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware. More than 130 flights were canceled Monday, with another 81 cancellations affecting flights that were originally scheduled for Tuesday.
The airline said the cuts, which will affect roughly 1% of its flights from July 2 to July 14, are aimed at building “additional resilience and certainty.”
“We never want to disappoint, and feel these schedule adjustments will help ensure we can take good care of our customers and team members and minimize surprises at the airport,” the company said in a statement to HuffPost Monday.
The cancellations were chosen with the goal of affecting as few passengers as possible “by adjusting flights in markets where we have multiple options for re-accommodation,” the airline said.
Some of American Airlines’ vendors have experienced labor shortages. These include vendors that provide catering, fuel services and assistance with passengers’ wheelchairs, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing an American executive.
By cutting some of the flights, the airline said it hopes it can avoid travel disruptions, alleviate some pressure on maintenance and expand the number of pilots it has on reserve, the Journal reported.
Passenger air travel is steadily rising back toward pre-pandemic levels in the U.S. as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widespread and travel restrictions are lifted. Roughly 2.1 million people passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on Sunday, about 77% of the number of travelers on the same day in 2019.
Though Americans may be ready to resume travel, the airline industry is still regaining its footing. Airlines have blown through cash reserves and amassed billions in debt while trying to stay afloat amid the pandemic, likely limiting their ability to rehire and reinvest due to incurred interest, according to a recent review by industry group Airlines for America.
Tens of thousands of airline employees have had their jobs slashed or furloughed over the past year, while others were offered early retirement. In addition to the time it takes to rehire workers, those furloughed will need to be retrained before they are brought back into service, NBC News reported.
In an interview that aired Sunday, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told “Axios on HBO” there could also be a pilot shortage in the U.S. “down the road,” due to the military producing fewer pilots today than it used to.
“It’s hard to become a pilot, a commercial airline pilot, on your own if you’re not going through the military,” Kirby said.