Thanks To Russia Hack, American Airlines May Start Flying Widebodies Full Of Jet Fuel Into Charlotte

Early Monday I predicted that the Colonial Pipeline hack, attributed by the FBI to Russian group DarkSide, could create significant problems for airlines with a fuel shortage in the Southeast. One of the airports I flagged for concern was Charlotte.

Already American Airlines is scheduling long flights from Charlotte to Honolulu and London with a refueling stop. I also contemplated the possibility also of flying planes into Charlotte with extra fuel so they could make short return trips without gassing up. However, American appears to be working on another plan.

Aviation watchdog JonNYC reports that American is working through whether it’s feasible to operate large widebody aircraft – Boeing 777s – from other hubs on their flights to Charlotte. They’d gas up the 777s, which can fly to Asia, with full tanks of fuel in places like Dallas. Then they’d siphon out the gas for flights that need to depart from Charlotte.

I’m not certain what waivers might be required for this. It surprises me to hear it talked about, versus just carrying more fuel to cover short return trips. And it’s likely that things haven’t reached the point yet where this is necessary and such planning is merely prudent as a contingency. But it shows those who are directly affected by the shutdown of the pipeline think this is serious.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. United is probably in the best shape to to that with all the excess jet fuel sloshing around in Houston. Pipelines from Houston to Dallas may still be capacity constrained, but probably not with fewer international flights from Dallas than usual.

  2. Gary,
    I can see them tankering fuel for turns but I don’t think you can legally reuse fuel that’s been de-fueled from another aircraft. I’d expect to see an A321 that runs MIA-CLT-MIA to be fueled for the round trip in MIA

  3. John H,
    United operates its highest revenue hub – at least pre-covid – in Newark.

    They might – and likely will have plenty of fuel in Houston – but unless they do what American is proposing (which is costly even if it is possible), they don’t have any more of an advantage in their large IAD and EWR hubs.

    If it really comes down to fuel shortages – and airports do have reserves although CLT is probably at the low end – fuel will be tankered on other flights. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is already happening esp. on DL flights from Florida and the Midwest to ATL and on AA to CLT.

    WN is actually in a tougher spot for BWI and BNA because the 737 has less tankering capability relative to its payload.

    DL is actually in the best position because of its refinery which can supply its NYC and BOS hubs – plus higher prices will help Delta’s bottom line via refinery profits.

    It is rather surprising that Colonial is saying it will take a business week to get it all back and running. The hacking is not as much of a surprise as how long it will take to restart.

  4. Nothing to see here.

    “This is a private sector matter”, says Joe Biden.

  5. @Tim Dunn – as a 40 year IT person (including as CTO and CIO of National companies) I completely agree w your last comment. First of all the IT leadership should be fired for allowing this to happen but also they should have back ups and a disaster recovery/business interruption plan that allowed things to get back to normal in 72 hours. I worked in the healthcare business and that wasn’t just best practice – it was a necessity!

  6. In addition to throwing the weight of our cyber warfare capacity against Russia’s infrastructure, we should remove the landing rights in the USA gift Aeroflot.

    Can Biden use his relationship with NATO and call upon those countries to pull their landing rights of Aeroflot?

    If Biden had insight, he would kill the Russian- German pipeline; facilitate development of oil and gas exploration in the USA.

    This how we protect America; not to send more cash to the mullah of Iran.

  7. Who really cares? I also think they are changing the color of a VPs office next week.

  8. No one believes me. Counter with an attack on their liquor supply chain and Russia falls. Two teenagers in Iowa could probably bring down the entire Stoli infrastructure.

  9. “The 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,”

  10. I’m with Chris on this one. I’m not sure what the legality of such measures in the United States is, but for a large airline I work for in Europe, we are not allowed to re-use fuel which has been de-fueled from an aircraft due to cross contamination issues. I can’t imagine it being any different in the U.S., but will gladly stand corrected if there are other regulations.
    I would assume that AA is tankering flights into CLT to avoid uplifts when possible. This is normal industry procedure for airports where fuel supplies are scarce, strikes, or as well as when it is cheaper to carry extra fuel into an airport (taking into account the cost of flying the extra weight around) which has high fuel costs.

  11. Tankering has been commonplace for decades

    In my experience unloading fuel used to happen for W/B issues, rare but it does happen – the only issue is you needed a tanker truck to do it (not underground fuels systems). But its been a while, maybe thats a no-no now.

  12. Tim,
    Any backup for saying here and on another site that CLT has low fuel reserves? We all know Atlanta is god to you and can do no wrong, but any facts to back that up?
    ATL is vastly more mainline aircraft (higher gas consumption) than CLT with its higher percentage of regional flights and not to mention atl has more flights overall.
    And as someone else pointed out to you, the NYC hub is fed by the colonial pipeline from PHL and BOS is no longer fed by the PHL refinery per delta’s 10k.

    Stick to facts.

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