How Bad Was American’s Operation Last Week?

A week ago I shared data on how poorly the American Airlines operation has fared during peak summer while their mechanics have been taking out frustrations over lack of a contract on the operation.

It isn’t just ‘work to rule’ writing up inconsequential items. It’s choosing to write things up at the last minute when it’s most disruptive and taking inordinately long to complete paperwork.

Last Week’s Operation Was Just As Bad As… The Previous Week

For the week of June 7 – 13, despite a company-wide push for exact on time departures for years and operational changes meant to improve the airline’s reliability they only managed to hit D0 57.8% of the time. That to me is horrible, even if their goal was only 64.2% (‘the soft bigotry of low expectations’).

The airline told employees that the week of June 14 – 20 “was equally as challenging as” the prior week.

We are now four weeks into the peak summer travel season. This marks one month of our heightened, companywide focus on peak seasons and delivering a safe and reliable operation to our customers and team members. It’s also a milestone for those team members, many of whom launched initiatives that place added emphasis on the role they play within their teams to improve our operational performance.

Here’s the data:

American Only Meets Operational Goals When It Doesn’t Fly

Only one of American’s hubs is meeting its goal for turning aircraft in the allotted time: “Currently, JFK is the only hub meeting its T0 goal for the summer peak on both the mainline and regional sides of the operation.”

American’s New York JFK T8 is a ghost terminal much of the day, with many aircraft on the ground for long periods of time, because they’ve chopped the operation down so that there’s only just over 70 flights a day now.

With summer runway construction the airline doesn’t have to use all of its slots to keep them. And without the need to squat on slots, they’ve reduced their flying — something that neither Delta nor JetBlue have done at the airport.

In February I wrote that American’s strategy in New York is not to play.

I argued that by cutting about two dozen destinations from New York, the airline makes it harder for customers to remain loyal to the airline and makes it harder for sales teams to win corporate business. It also makes it harder for the airline’s engine of profits, AAdvantage to succeed because the program becomes less relevant to New Yorkers when there are fewer flights, and without a route network that appeals to New Yorkers they have a harder time securing AAdvantage cardmembers in the important financial center and winning their spend.

The airline’s Vice President of Planning had taken umbrage to my characterization of New York service cuts explaining to me that they aren’t really cutting, “we’re growing in JFK to Austin and JFK to San Antonio” although of course the second Austin flight is already gone.

When the airline has 219 peak day takeoff and landing slots, and only uses two-thirds of them, they’re able to meet operational metrics for turning aircraft. They just aren’t flying very many customers, which is what I thought they were supposed to be doing.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I love that they clAAim they are growing in Austin, where they offer a single flight daily to JFK, when DL and B6 have multiple to JFK and UA and WN offer multiple to EWR.

  2. AA was in a bad way, through in active labor disputes and work slowdowns and AA is awful…

  3. FWIW I had to gate check a bag and it didnt make my connecting flight (IAD-LGA) despite a ~2 hour turnaround time. Not a well run ship right now.

  4. Sitting on an AA plane right now. Plane fully boarded. No pilots… FA just announced the pilots are landing another flight now-ish and will be over soon….

  5. FA announced the flight is ‘normally 2hrs 38 mins, but we’re going to do it in 1hr 58 mins so we have 40mins to play with. Great except were already 43 mins delayed and still sitting at the gate…

  6. We had a proactive cancellation last week, 72 hours before the flight. This resulted in a connection via DFW that was 2 hours later than our original flights. It seemed like there were a lot of DFW cancellations on 6/17. One of the Admirals Club reps in TPA indicated that our first flight was heavily oversold, and the gate agents did offer $500 vouchers to get volunteers.

    Our second flight got switched to a plane that came in from Mexico, and was delayed. Our original aircraft was coming in from DEN. We waited quite a while to board our second flight because the original plane had to be cleaned.

  7. How bad was last week?
    Sunday My poor DW had a IAH-MIA flight delayed 8 hrs. 1st it was weather, 2nd late arriving aircraft and 3rdly no air conditioning on the late arriving aircraft. Fortunately they found another one. What should have been a 9pm arrival turned out to be 5am. I guess she should consider herself lucky is wasn’t cancelled.

  8. why on earth hasn’t the CEO been fired by now? totally unacceptable performance in both the flight ops and the stock price. unreal.

  9. This article is truly bigoted. First of all the weather was a major disruption in Dallas their major hub. Southwest also had major delays because of weather and computer problems.

  10. Looks like they will have four new destinations from JFK, starting in December:
    Montego Bay, Jamaica
    San Jose, Costa Rica
    Liberia, Costa Rica
    Georgetown, Guyana

  11. I can only speak for my hub: CLT. The last few weeks have been awful in the south. We have had torrential rain storms causing flooding, record high rivers, downed trees, etc. It was really bad.

    During the storms I pulled up Flightradar24 and there was a lot of circling and diverting going on. Atlanta was pretty bad, too I heard. And others here have commented on DFW being in a bad way, also. If a couple of hubs and large airports get knocks like that, I don’t need to explain to anyone here what the knock-on effects are on flight schedules. Planes diverted or never took off, crews timed out or in the wrong place, ground stops and load/unload stops due to lightning, etc.

    And while AA is certainly suffering from mechanics and other ops issues, the weather issues were certainly valid where I live, and I would not have wanted to fly in that weather either!

  12. On last Saturday, my DFW-PHX flight offloaded shortly after boarding to change a tire. 45 minutes after offloading, 3 guys showed up to change it, which took 10 minutes (only 1 did the work – I watched them through the terminal window). 1 hour later, still no idea when we’d reboard, causing most everyone to misconnect – luckily I’d rebooked another flight.

    The delay for a flat tire change? 2 hours and 50 minutes.

  13. @CLT Flyer your points are valid. I am in DFW and the storms have been unrelenting. Sometimes more than two consecutive days. Granted, 65 planes across the system, out of service at 7am to start each day adds a lot of operational uncertainty. But that fades in comparison to, for example, expected storms causing 100+ cancellations at DFW, at mid to late afternoon. Add to that, as you said, the inbound diversions and delays and the ripple effect into the next day. An army of airport agents, ground crews and others vital to the operation are working long days to get the operation back in line. (Only for another storm to come and they can do it all again)

  14. I took five UA flight segments the week of June 16. The combined hours of flight delays exceeded the 16 hours of meetings.

    It was a tough week to travel.

  15. I was on an AA flight 6/14 out of LAX to DFW; we boarded an hour late, then sat on the plane 4 more hours before even leaving the gate due to a mechanical delay. Landed at DFW and had to stand in line an hour to get a voucher for a hotel 20 miles away, sleep for 3 hours then come back for my onward flight to RIC. I was grateful there were seats on the morning flight and all in all, only got to my final destination 2 hours late (had planned a night at an airport hotel in RIC), but on about half my planned sleep. I was grateful the delay was mechanical and thus a free room/taxi/breakfast, but still not ideal.

    Leaving RIC yesterday back to LAX through ORD, upon arrival to the airport saw the app was trying to rebook me in the morning. Thankfully we arrived early to the airport and the previous flight to ORD was delayed by an hour and hadn’t departed yet, so 16 of us who arrived early enough to jump on that bird still made it to ORD for our onward flights. I was grateful for a quick-thinking ticket agent, and that I was early enough to pull it off!

  16. Gary, your posts on AA’s ops are ill-informed. You ignored the mechanics slowdown when there was actually a mechanics slowdown. Thanks to a court order, the mechanics are working again (if they weren’t, their union leaders would be in jail). The problem last week was weather. Horrific weather, particularly at DFW. The weather has gotten better the past 2 days at DFW. In turn, AA’s operation is much better. As I write this, AA’s on-time percentage today is 87%. It will stay at that level is the weather is good. If the weather gets bad again, AA’s ops will get bad again.

  17. Family member paid 800 dollars round trip on American from Columbus
    Only a 4 hour delay with 3 of them sitting on the tarmac due to mechanical issues
    After nearly starving American coughed up a 12 dollar voucher that bought a sandwich with nothing leftover for a beverage
    We booked on Delta for their flight home
    I won’t fly either airline and hate them equally

  18. “They just aren’t flying very many customers, which is what I thought they were supposed to be doing.”

    They aren’t disappointing as many customers, because the Platinums and above have decamped for Delta and JetBlue.

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