American Airlines cancels more than 700 flights due to weather and personnel issues

An American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER aircraft takes off from Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, on October 28, 2020.

Loren Elliott | Reuters

American Airlines has canceled more than 1,000 flights since Friday, due to staffing issues and strong winds at the busiest hub.

On Saturday, American canceled nearly 460 flights, or 17% of its flight schedule, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines reduced 86 flights, or 2% of its Saturday operations.

American canceled a further 285 flights, or 10% of its scheduled schedule for Sunday, on top of 340 cancellations on Friday.

U.S. COO David Seymour said in a staff note Saturday that the problems started with strong gusts of wind on Thursday, reducing capacity at its Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport hub, and that crew members ended up out of position for their next flights.

Availability of pilots and flight attendants was cited as the reasons for most cancellations Saturday and Sunday, according to internal statistics seen by CNBC.

“With extra weather throughout the system, our personnel begin to run tight as crew members end up out of their regular flight sequences,” Seymour wrote. He said most customers were rebooked the same day and that he expects operations to stabilize in November.

Airlines have struggled with staff shortages that have triggered hundreds of flight cancellations and other disruptions since travel demand rose sharply in the late spring. Carriers had convinced thousands of employees to accept voluntary acquisitions or absences to reduce their labor costs during the depths of the pandemic.

Now they are trying to staff up again and hire pilots, flight attendants, ramp and customer service staff and others. Slimmer staff make it harder for airlines to recover from disruptions such as bad weather or technological problems.

Southwest said earlier this month that a meltdown earlier this month, in which it canceled more than 2,000 flights, cost it $ 75 million. It also said it would trim its remaining schedule for 2021 further after previous cuts to avoid more disruption.

American Airlines’ Seymour said 1,800 flight attendants would return from November 1 leave and the rest would be back in December. It said it is also in the process of hiring pilots, mechanics, airport workers and booking agents “so more team members will be in place during the holiday season.”

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